The Mount was Edith Wharton’s home from 1902 to 1911. It was her first home and it was her design lab, so to speak–she used the principles that she wrote about in her non-fiction book, Decoration of Houses, to design the house.
Wharton, like Mabel Choate, had traveled in Italy and would later write another non-fiction book, Italian Villas and Their Gardens, so the gardens are heavily influenced by European design.
This is the alleé of pleached linden trees (which she referred to as lime trees in the European fashion).
At one end is a very shady, formal garden enclosed by high walls covered in climbing hydrangea. It has nooks for benches (rather than statuary as European gardens might), a fountain at the center and paths within surrounding formal beds enclosed by low hedges.
At the other end of the alleé is almost its polar opposite, influenced by British garden designer Gertrude Jekyll. There are flowers beds of hot colored flowers–neatly contained, but nevertheless a riot of color.
There were American natives cone flowers and meadow rue, plus annuals like zinnia and floss flower and perennials like lady’s mantle, astilbe and bee balm.
Overall, however, the effect throughout all the gardens is one of formality–as one might find in European gardens-rather than the cottage gardens popular in England or the new American meadow garden style.
Having visited this garden on the same day as Naumkeag, it was an interesting contrast. The two gardens were almost contemporaneous–this one was designed during a brief time and then Ms. Wharton moved on to France after her marriage dissolved whereas the Choate family continued to garden at Naumkeag for decades until the late 1950s–and yet they very different as well perhaps because of the “snapshot in time” that the Mount represents.
But that’s the beauty of seeing different gardens. No matter what you see, there’s always something interesting and different to learn.