Gardens That Inspire at The Mansion in May

This week, I attended a press event for the Mansion in May, a designer showhouse and gardens presented by the Women’s Association of Morristown Memorial Hospital. The designers have done a spectacular job and the $30 ticket price goes to support a good cause --- the expansion of the Emergency Department at Morristown Memorial Hospital. The mansion and grounds, Fawn Hill, are open now through May 31st.

Ensconced in a bucolic setting just outside of Morristown, the 34-acre estate, originally named Graymar Farm, traces back to 1937 when the president of Alleghany Corporation, Allan Kirby, purchased part of a large farm located in New Vernon. The farm remained in the Kirby family until 1980. A few years later, the estate was acquired by its current owners, renamed, and enhanced through a meticulous restoration of the main house and other buildings.

The magnificent 21-room stone manor house with slate roof and colonnaded rear terrace perches atop a knoll, affording sweeping visas of the countryside. This classic structure boasts extensive moldings, arched doorways, pegged hardwood flooring, seven distinctive fireplaces, seven bedrooms and a grand wainscoted foyer with an elegant Georgian staircase.

But my favorite "rooms" are the 17 gardens nestled around the house, which range from the whimsical "painting the roses red" theme of A Child's Garden of Verses (top photo) to the elegant retreats, Tranquility By The Beech, and Sedona Summer Solstice. Designer Susan Cohan's ambitious undertaking, A Garden Gives Back (bottom photo), is a large organic kitchen garden and orchard whose spring produce is being donated to a local food pantry.

There are gardens here to suit every taste and style. Mine leans toward an odd combination of the lush and large-scale A Personal Patio and the more intimate The Secret Garden, with its old-fashioned plants and antique ornaments.

It's wonderful to see the progress of the garden elements of The Mansion in May throughout the years. Specific vignettes from past shows have stuck in my mind and I return to them again and again for inspiration. These types of display gardens are a great resource for generating ideas and for finding a designer or landscape architect whose sense of style matches your own.

Thanks to all of the designers, publicists, and volunteers who shared their time and expertise with me. For more details, go to http://www.mansioninmay.com .

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