Not too far from the crazy, smelly, wonderfully messy streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans is very different world called Longue Vue House and Gardens. With lush green lawns, gravel drives and not a hair of out of place, Longue Vue is a step back to a different era. Mike and I made a day of visiting gardens in New Orleans and visiting Longue Vue Gardens was our last stop of the day. It was hard to find (Uber drivers will not know their way!) but worth the trip.
We entered the gardens through this beautiful tree lined drive and walked toward the beautiful mansion ahead. There was no one else around as we entered and it felt like we had the entire place to ourselves. After checking in at the gift shop we started to explore the outdoor gardens. I should confess that we did not take the opportunity to get a tour of the house and museum during our visit… I was already pushing my luck asking Mike to visit two gardens in a single day!
According to the Longue Vue website, “Begun in 1935 by Ellen Biddle Shipman, known as “the dean of American women landscape architects,” Longue Vue’s gardens have an important place in the history of horticulture design in the United States.
At the time of Longue Vue’s creation, a bold new garden movement was taking place, setting the stage for the creation of breathtaking garden estates across America. During this period called the Country Place Era, traveling Americans looked to Europe for inspiration for their own retreats that seamlessly integrated indoor and outdoor spaces.
Ellen Biddle Shipman was much sought after as a designer of gardens of the Country Place style. She possessed a keen ability to create garden rooms with an ease and expressive romanticism that made her stand out among her more formal contemporaries.”
Walking through these gardens you can still feel theses garden rooms. Each garden is distinctly separate, which was a very nice way to explore these individuals spaces. The doorways and entrances to each garden are well planned and the small views are perfect windows to the next experience.
As we circled around the back of the home we came to this amazing area and really our first view of formal garden spaces. This is called the Portico Terrace Garden with small boxwood parterres and gardenias grown in standard tree form. The gardenias were full of flowers and the scent was just barely in the air. I was so busy taking photos of these that when I turned around and saw the Spanish Court garden to the side I was almost shocked.
Bordering the grass lawn, the boxwood hedges define the individual fountains and small gardens along the outer walkway. Each water feature is different, surrounded by four containers overflowing with colorful annuals or groundcovers setting on the most beautiful pebble mosaics you have ever seen.
I can’t even begin to explain how much I adore these Mexican pebble carpets that surround each fountain. The attention to detail and the perfection achieved with an imperfect material is extraordinary.
The view from the end of the Spanish Court back toward the Longue Vue house. The water features throughout the gardens are not large, but the movement and sound of water is a peaceful addition and found in several places throughout Longue Vue.
The Walled Garden is a vegetable, herb and fruit garden laid out like the spokes of a wheel. The inner circle is a series of steps down, planted with edible plants. It is certainly a formal vegetable garden, yet the different levels and the circular arrangement make it feel very different from most vegetable gardens. I think you have to have a pretty large space to lay out a garden in this manner, but it does make me think about how to incorporate this in a home garden.
Beyond the Walled Garden the plants turn to a more native focus, with fewer distinct boundaries and a much more natural feel. This Wild Garden is filled with different shrubs and perennials, leading to a koi pond and a small outdoor tower on the far end. On the map this is simply titled the “Pigeonnier.” I’ve looked up the definition of this term and it says, “a structure for housing pigeons, often raised on a pole or set on a wall, containing compartments for the birds to roost and lay eggs.” I don’t know if this was the actual purpose of this building but I would have to assume so.
As we left the classic gardens of Longue Vue Gardens we entered into the Discovery Garden at Longue Vue Gardens. I am torn on how I feel about this space. As a stand alone children’s garden it is top notch! It has many interactive activities, great ways for kids to explore, learn about plants and incorporates unique plants. On the other hand, I didn’t think that it felt like a cohesive part of Longue Vue Gardens at all. I don’t know if I would take kids to this garden just to see this part, but if I was visiting with children in tow I would make sure to leave yourself plenty of time in this area for them to really explore all that there is to see and do. Heck, maybe this would be a good place to divide and conquer and let one person stay in the Discovery Garden and one go on the museum house tour?
We really enjoyed visiting Longue Vue Gardens. Of everything that we saw that first view of the home through the allee of oak trees will stick in my mind. This historical property has come a long way.
As their website reads, “Longue Vue’s recovery was greatly aided by The Garden Conservancy, which in 2006 designated Longue Vue as a Preservation Project. In fulfilling its mission to preserve American gardens for the public’s education and enjoyment, the Garden Conservancy provides the leadership, guidance, and tools to assist garden owners, public agencies, and private organizations in assessing the feasibility of preserving a garden, opening its gates to the public, and sustaining the garden as a valued cultural resource in the community, region, and nation.”