Annuals · Garden Design · Garden Musings

The Gardens of Hillwood Estate

I knew the Garden Bloggers Fling was going to be an extraordinary experience when the gardens of the Hillwood Estate were the first stop on the first full day.

The Hillwood Estate was the home of Marjorie Merriweather Post. Born in 1887 with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth, she was the only daughter of Ella Merriweather and Charles William Post, founder of the Postum Cereal Company (which later became the General Foods Corporation).

The life of Marjorie Merriweather Post is fascinating. She attended Mount Vernon Seminary, one of the most respected schools for young women at the time. She had two daughters with her first husband. After the deaths of her parents, she became the sole heiress to their fortune and one of the wealthiest women in America. She had another daughter, actress Dina Merrill, with her second husband. She sat on the Board of Directors of General Foods Company for twenty years. She lived in Russia for a short time with her third husband, and when that marriage ended, she purchased a 25-acre estate known as Arbremont. She renovated the house and grounds and named it Hillwood, filling them with her grand collections of French and Russian art. Her last attempt at marital bliss ended with a marriage of six years to her fourth husband. Marjorie Merriweather Post died at Hillwood in 1973. She bequeathed her home and gardens to the public to enjoy her collections inside and out.

Enjoy a walk through the gardens of the Hillwood Estate.

The French Parterre featured Diana, Roman goddess of the hunt, at the far end surrounded by neatly clipped walls of green. Boxwood shrubs were planted in patterns, matching details found on objects in her French collections, around the water feature.

Some said whimsical; others thought creepy. I kept thinking, “Puppy, monkey, baby.” If you’ve seen the commercial, you know what I mean.

Satyr musicians filled the air with their silent music on the Lunar Lawn where Post hosted magnificent parties.

The sound of water beckoned me into the Japanese Garden where Japanese lanterns and statuary accompanied me along the walk. Bridges welcomed me to cross the water. Stepping stones also extended an invitation, but I declined fearing wet shoes for the rest of the day.

Everyone has a pet cemetery in their backyards, right? If you were a wealthy, pet-loving socialite like Marjorie Merriweather Post, you may have also created a space for your furry friends to spend eternity, complete with engraved headstones.

The Dacha, or Russian county house, was tucked into the woodland. Built in 1969, it was built with authentic architectural details of a Russian peasant house.

The greenhouse was rebuilt in 1996 but looked much as it did when it housed the orchids Post collected.

The Rose Garden was adapted from its original design to suit Post’s taste in 1956. Each bed was planted with a single type of floribunda rose. The wood and brick pergola, part of the original design, provided structure.

Post’s ashes are housed in the base of the monument.

Are you ready for a floral fantasy? Are you prepared for absolute bounty of beautiful blooms? The cutting garden at the Hillwood Estate was the best I have ever seen.

The plants were placed in functional fashion. Rows and rows of stems were sometimes held straight by netting and others neatly staked.

The flowers grown in the cutting garden were the same types as those used in arrangements in the 1950’s and 60’s, including bachelor buttons, butterfly weed, cleome, coneflowers, crocosmia, dahlias, foxgloves, globe thistles, Queen Anne’s lace, snapdragons, sunflowers, and many more.

And sweet peas, there were sweet peas!

Today, the flowers are used to make the arrangements for the mansion and the Visitors Center.

The gardens of the Hillwood Estate were fantastic. We are fortunate that Marjorie Merriweather Post was so generous to leave her estate for the public to enjoy. If you would like to visit when you are in Washington, D.C., it is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Learn more about the Hillwood Estate here, and then garden with me!






4 thoughts on “The Gardens of Hillwood Estate

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *