A visit to Hillwood

Marjorie Merriweather Post's Hillwood in Washington, D.C.

Hillwood, Marjorie Merriweather Post’s estate, in Washington, D.C. opened its doors for the Garden Bloggers’ flingers on our first morning of tours. Hillwood reminded me of numerous other estate gardens I’ve visited over the years. It’s kept in about the same condition and style as it was when Post still lived there from the mid-1950s to 1973.

Post wanted her last home to be a museum, and, after some wrangling, it eventually happened. Post was an heiress, socialite, and philanthropist who inherited the Postum cereal fortune from her father. She began running the company at the age of twenty-seven after her father’s death. Post collected Russian and French art, jewelry, and furniture. You can view some of her jewelry, including a pair of Marie Antoinette’s earrings, at the Smithsonian. She is also known for overseeing construction of Mar-a-Lago, now owned by President Donald Trump. Her Imperial Russian collection, established while her third husband, Joseph E. Davies, was ambassador to Russia, is located at Hillwood.

Post purchased Hillwood, originally named Arbremont, after her divorce from Davies. That’s quite a story in itself. You can read it at the link about Post’s museum hopes, above.

Being a garden writer, I was most interested in, you guessed it, the gardens. Although the gardens comprise twenty-five acres, they don’t seem that large because they are broken up into rooms. Post was a fan of 18th Century France, and her French parterre is a tribute to her interests.

There is also a small Japanese garden which despite its size, is very well appointed. It’s quite beautiful and has wonderful views. You can see it in the first photo gallery show above. Click on the photos to make them larger.

My favorite part of the landscape was the cutting garden. Situated near the greenhouse, this garden supplies all of the flowers used inside the house/museum. It’s probably the best cutting garden I’ve ever seen.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been fortunate enough to visit a lot of gardens, but I’m a bit weary of grand estate gardens. They all seem to have similar attributes, especially if they were created between the 1920s and 1950s. You can almost always bet upon a formal rose garden, a Japanese garden, either an Italian formal landscape piece or a French one–you get the idea.

Post did also have a really interesting pet cemetery and a dacha in her garden too.

Graves in pet cemetery at Hillwood.
Graves for Post’s favorite pets still reside in the pet cemetery at Hillwood.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s all very pretty, but I’m more interested in a working garden, and the cutting garden was just that. I loved how the gardeners placed netting in the rows for the flowers to grow through–a brilliant idea to keep stems straight and strong. Also, this cutting garden had great filler plants like bells of Ireland, dill weed, and Queen Anne’s lace to nestle between larger blooms.

After we had our photo made on the Lunar lawn and had lunch, the bloggers split up and were off to our next destinations. I really enjoyed Hillwood and hope you enjoy my thoughts about it too.

Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden Book Giveaway

Benzakein with Julie Chai. Book Giveaway

Guess what!

I’m doing another book giveaway with the help of Chronicle Books and Erin Benzakein of Floret Farm I love Erin’s work. Don’t know Erin? Well, where have you been? She’s an extremely popular flower farmer, cut-flower style setter, mother, seed purveyor, and so much more. Erin’s Instagram account boasts 389,000 + followers. Can you say, “Wow!?

I was so happy to help out with her blog book tour. I mean, just looking at these photos is like taking a vacation to Skagit Valley, Washington, one of my favorite places on Earth.

“I have found tremendous joy in growing and sharing seasonal flowers and foliage. My hope is that my book will help others discover this joy and provide practical information to grow the garden of their dreams.” Photo courtesy of Chronicle Books and Erin Benzakein.
“I have found tremendous joy in growing and sharing seasonal flowers and foliage. My hope is that my book will help others discover this joy and provide practical information to grow the garden of their dreams.” Photo courtesy of Chronicle Books and Erin Benzakein.

Since my blog is very photo driven, I asked for a photo essay, and Chronicle Books sent me some beautiful photos of Floret Farm’s flowers and Erin, along with her quotes.

Sit back, grab a cup of something, tea, coffee, a cocktail and peruse the beauty. This is just some of what you can expect to see in the book which I have read.

Sit back, grab a cup of something, tea, coffee, a cocktail and peruse the beauty. This is just some of what you can expect to see in the book which I have read. Note: I was given a copy of the book for review from the publisher. 

“In the book, I share all my tried-and-true techniques for growing great cut flowers. Whether you want to grow flowers for pleasure, as food for bees and pollinators or as a potential side business, you’ll find step-by-step instructions alongside beautiful photos from my garden for inspiration.”
“In the book, I share all my tried-and-true techniques for growing great cut flowers. Whether you want to grow flowers for pleasure, as food for bees and pollinators or as a potential side business, you’ll find step-by-step instructions alongside beautiful photos from my garden for inspiration.”

The book does give detailed instructions for growing your own cut flower garden. The instructions are clear and concise, and I loved the photos. They are scrumptious as you can see.

A summer day full of zinnia harvesting at Floret Farm.
A summer day full of zinnia harvesting at Floret Farm.

I’ve bought zinnia seeds from Erin several times and other beautiful flowers for my own cut flower garden beds. I am especially fond of the ‘Oklahoma Salmon‘ variety. I love cutting gardens. They are such fun to create and grow. Just don’t forget to cut your flowers and bring them inside to enjoy.

About zinnias

Erin says, “No cut flower garden is complete without these versatile, easy-to-grow blooms. Just be sure to look for cultivars that are made for cutting gardens (versus bedding plants) such as the appropriately named ‘Benary Giant’ series, the massive magenta ‘Uproar Rose’ and the ‘Persian Carpet’ mix.”

About dahlias

Erin is also a big fan of dahlias as am I.

We grow more dahlias than any other flower here at Floret.  Dahlias come in a rainbow of colors and are nearly unmatched in terms of flower production. I’ve been bitten by the dahlia bug and have so many favorites that it would be impossible to narrow it down to 20, much less three.”

Dahlia 'Golden Scepter' Floret Farm
Erin holds an armful of Dahlia ‘Golden Scepter.’

Erin also suggests that you let plants do double duty in your garden.

About foliage

“A lot of beginning gardeners focus on growing flowers with big, showy blooms and forget to plant enough foliage to round out your summer bouquets. If you already grow herbs and vegetables in your garden, many of your plants can serve double duty.  Here are a few favorites that can be used for food or foliage in a summer bouquet:

“Mint: I was advised to never plant this vigorous spreader but am so glad I ignored them. Mint is available early in the season, has a great vase life and adds a lovely fragrance to bouquets. My favorite varieties are Apple, Peppermint, Pineapple (white variegated) and Spearmint.

Basil, especially one with red or purple foliage is great in bouquets too. Photo courtesy of Chronicle Books.
Basil, especially one with red or purple foliage like ‘Aramato,’ is great in bouquets too. Photo courtesy of Chronicle Books.

“Basil:  Easy to grow, fragrant and abundant, basil is great for both cooking and floral design.  With deep purple flowers, glossy foliage and a fantastic scent, ‘Oriental Breeze’ has been a favorite of mine for years. Other great varieties to grow include ‘Cinnamon’, ‘Lemon’, ‘Cardinal’ and ‘Aramato’.

Dill makes an excellent filler in flower arrangements.
Dill makes an excellent filler in flower arrangements. Photo courtesy of Chronicle Books.

“Dill: With big yellow umbel shaped blooms, dill flowers add an airy textural element to any summer bouquet.

“Shiso ‘britton’ (Perilla frutescens): Common in Asian cooking, this plant also is popular among floral designers who love its contrasting colors.  The serrated, bi-colored leaves of this culinary herb are green on top and a pretty burgundy-purple underneath.

Book giveaway details:

We’re giving away a copy of Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest, and Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms along with a bunch of Floret goodies: a garden day planner, calendar, and seeds! For a chance to win, just leave a comment in the comment section below. The contest ends at Noon on March 20. I’ll pick a winner on March 24, 2017, with a random number generator. You have to leave your name and email address (unpublished) to enter. I can’t contact you if I can’t find you. Please note this giveaway is only open to continental U.S. residents.

Also, don’t forget my other garden tool giveaway is ongoing. Please feel free to enter it too. It’s an exciting spring!

If you follow along with the whole tour, you will have multiple chances to win!

Visit the other participating blogs below to learn more about the local flower movement and Floret Farms; plus, each blog post will offer a chance for you to win.

Participating blogs:

 

Buy the book here: www.floretflowers.com/book
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UPDATE: Denise Whitehead is our winner. I’ve contacted her so Floret can send her the goods. Thanks to everyone who played along.