The Gardens

By the mid-19th century, a whole new style of gardening arrived from abroad. Where previously whole gardens were laid out with walkways, the new fashion advocated lawns interspersed with sudden random plantings of gigantic single plants and rows of identical small plants in contrasting colors, like ribbons. This approach reflected the suburban desire to impress passing strangers. It persists today in the placement of iron statues (of dogs or deer, for example) on front lawns facing the street. Two things made these changes possible:

-There was an influx of horticultural material from the North American Southwest and the South American tropics.

-The lifting of the tax on glass in England caused cold-frame and greenhouse culture to become popular for all social classes. Vast supplies of small, brilliant annuals became available.

When Mrs. Craighead Davidson came to Rosedale in 1918, all that remained of the original garden was a row of English boxwood, a Chinquapin rosebush, an Oriental arborvitae, a flowering almond, and Roman hyacinths. Beyond the original garden was the "necessary."

Realizing that gardens of the period proper to Rosedale were laid out in a formal style with places to stroll, Mrs. Davidson's design included a long walk and crosswalk with tall evergreens at the axis and additional small crosswalks.

The beds were treated as parterres (ornamental gardens with paths between the beds) containing perennials and annuals. She began work in the original garden site, keeping it in the English style with the arborvitae as the focal point and parterre beds lined with box. Later, she added the rose garden, again with parterres bordered with box.

Mrs. Craighead Davidson now had three gardens located to the west of the house. Closest to the street was the Rose Garden, behind that the Little Garden, and to the rear, the Main Garden.

All three gardens were the same width and paralleled the original line of English boxwood. Camellias, azaleas and Chinese tree peonies were introduced by Mrs. Davidson.

When the R. A. Dunn house, located next to the First Methodist Church, was demolished Mrs. Davidson bought part of the wrought ironwork and built a wall parallel to the original boxwoods.

This formed the boxwood Alley, again proper to the classical garden. The walk was 17 feet wide and 86 feet long. The stones at the entrances to the Rose and Little Gardens are the soapstone steps from the old Jack Springs house on the square.

There were over 3,000 boxwoods in the garden, all grown from the line of original boxwood. There are no clues as to where a kitchen and herb garden were planted. We are not certain whether the original drive ran as it does now. Family members recall that a front walk ran in a direct line from the front steps for some feet where there was a paling fence and gate. The rest of the front lawn was pasture, which was scythed for hay.