Garden Visit–Naumkeag

A week ago I went with the Garden Writers to tour 3 gardens in Massachusetts. Two of them were places I had always wanted to go but had never managed to get to, despite living in a neighboring state. The third I had never heard of but it turned out to be quite a gem. I’ll take you “touring” with me in the next couple of posts.

If you wonder why you might care, lots of folks do foliage tours through New England every year. These gardens are located in the Berkshire mountain range, a lovely place in and of itself, but also a great way to get up to Vermont.

And there’s also lots of other things to do there, which is why I had never been to these gardens. But I will leave that to you all to plan your visits.


The first garden we visited was called Naumkeag. It was the summer home of a family from New York, the Choates. We heard lots of amusing anecdotes about them, as well as a few sad stories as well. It was the daughter of the family, Mabel, who was responsible for the collaboration with Fletcher Steele, the landscape architect who worked on the gardens for 30 years with her. You can read everything you might want to know about the property at the web site, here.

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Even for those of you who have never heard of this place, or Fletcher Steele, you will know one of his most famous installations in this garden, the Blue Steps. It solved a problem: a way to get from the house to a series of cutting gardens below. But what a magnificent way to do so!



To be honest, this was all I knew of this garden before I got here. But I left enchanted by lots of other things.


Being unmarried, Mabel had lots of time (and the resources) to travel. She traveled extensively in the far east and brought home lots of souvenirs. Her Chinese garden was designed, in part, to accommodate them.  This is the Moon Gate from the Chinese garden.



On the opposite side of the house, there is an Afternoon Garden that was designed to remind Choate of her travels to Venice. There are wooden poles painted like the poles in the famous canals, a low boxwood hedge knot garden, decorative chairs with colorful backs and colorful tropical plants in containers.


In another spot, a shady pavilion overlooks the house, a cooling fountain and the pasture and valley below. There are still cows in the field but they no longer belong to the property.


It’s a wonderful place to spend  a day. Bring a picnic or pick something up from the gift shop. The food is catered by the nearby Red Lion Inn.


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