Blithewood Garden

Main Image for Blithewood Gardens
Situated on a steeply sloping bluff, approximately 130 feet above the Hudson River, Blithewood is a 45-acre section of the Bard College campus that was once part of a historic estate comprising a manor house, outbuildings, drives, gardens, lawns, and meadows. Blithewood Garden is a classic example of a walled Italianate garden. Located in the heart of the Hudson River National Historic Landmark District, the garden was designed circa 1903 by Francis L. V. Hoppin (1867–1941) of the architectural firm Hoppin & Koen. Blithewood Garden today remains as breathtakingly beautiful as ever, including its awe-inspiring backdrop of the Catskill Mountains and Hudson River.
 
“Few places that we have ever seen exhibit such marked evidence of refined taste, and correct appreciations of rural beauty, as Blithewood. The spot itself is one possessing great natural attraction, and these have been heightened and improved to the greatest possible advantage.”
      —author unknown, The Cultivator, 1845
Rehabilitation Project

Rehabilitation Project

Bard College and the Garden Conservancy, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to saving and sharing outstanding America gardens, are working together on repairs to the historic garden’s structures and hardscape.
NEW! BARD COLLEGE MUSIC COMPOSITION 2020 COMPETITION 

NEW! BARD COLLEGE MUSIC COMPOSITION 2020 COMPETITION

 

Call for Blithewood Garden-inspired works for submission

The Friends of Blithewood Garden, a group of Bard faculty, staff and community friends, working with The Garden Conservancy, a national not-for-profit, seek short music compositions that will add to the enjoyment and reputation of the Garden, both within and beyond the College, to promote the garden and share it with others.Interested composers must be either current Bard College students or alumni/ae of the College. Entries may be submitted up until February 15, 2020.  Each entrant may submit one original, unpublished composition in any genre, for up to four instruments, up to five minutes long. A panel of judges, including musicians from outside Bard College, will review the submissions and announce winners by May 15, 2020. The winning works will be premiered as part of a public event in September 2020 to raise restoration funds for the Garden. In addition, the winning composition will be recorded for use as part of promotional materials for the garden. Credit will be given to composer and musicians. All compositions must include the words “Blithewood Garden” in the title. The competition will carry an award of $500 for the winning composition, and awards of $250 each for up to two runners-up. Compositions should evoke the beauty of Blithewood Garden and its unique acoustic potential. Contestants can find images of the garden and information about its history at www.bard.edu/arboretum/gardens/blithewood/. Expand for <strong>NEW! BARD COLLEGE MUSIC COMPOSITION 2020 COMPETITION</strong><br /><br />  Expand
History

History

Located in the heart of the Hudson River National Historic Landmark District, the garden was designed circa 1903 by Francis L. V. Hoppin (1867–1941) of the architectural rm Hoppin & Koen. It is a classic example of a walled Italianate garden. Blithewood Garden today remains breathtakingly beautiful, including its awe-inspiring backdrop of the Catskill Mountains and Hudson River. In keeping with the turn-of-the-century trend toward Romanticism, the formal Italian garden acts as an extension of the Georgian-style mansion. Hoppin designed the house in 1900 for Captain Andrew C. Zabriskie (1853–1916) and his wife, Frances Hunter Zabriskie (d. 1951), who owned the Blithewood estate from 1899 to 1951, when their son, Christian Zabriskie, donated it to Bard College.
Layout

Layout

Blithewood Garden is a quintessentially architectural garden. Built during the Gilded Age (1870–1900), it follows the traditional Italianate design, with a at ground plane, paths on  geometric axes, symmetrical beds, a central water feature, statuary, marble ornaments, and walls that form an enclosure, creating a green “room.” The main axis of the sunken, rectangular garden and its terraces terminates at a pavilion overlooking the Hudson River. Hoppin wanted the walled garden to create a sense of solitude, a haven, for its owners. During an interview in 1903, Hoppin expressed his thoughts about the relationship between the house and garden, saying that both “are properly parts of a single design . . . rather than afterthoughts.”
Plantings
Modern view of Blithewood Garden overlooking Hudson and Catskill Mountains

Plantings

Blithewood’s formal garden, lawn, and woodlands contain remnants of vegetation that once existed around much of the estate. Historically, Frances Hunter Zabriskie would have included clipped evergreens, tree peonies, tulips, irises, hyacinths, gladiola, daodils, phlox, delphiniums, lavender, forget-me-nots, ivy, buttery bush, rhododendrons, lilacs, wisteria, and rugosa and climbing roses, as well as maintained turf. Potted oleander and orange trees, geraniums, nasturtiums, cosmos, snapdragons, and zinnias also graced the garden each year. There was no singular color scheme.

"Robert Donaldson “shaped the land into pleasure grounds of aesthetic delights: shaded bowers, terraced gardens, waterfalls, and long vistas, utilizing what nature had so bountifully supplied. Integral to his design were the farm and its fields, pastures, barns, and livestock."
    —Jean Bradley Anderson, Carolinian on the Hudson, 1996