" Please Come In... and see the roses. There is a beautiful white rose, a gift from Mrs. Van Renssaelaer and another brought to me all the way from Philadelphia by my granddaughter, Fanny. "
That is what Betsey Delord might say if she were able to travel forward in time to talk to us. Even without a time machine, it is still possible to see the flowers that Betsey might have enjoyed and to learn about her early gardens.
Come with us, down the garden path to history!
You are invited to become a member of a dedicated group of volunteers who plant, cultivate and maintain the gardens at the Kent-Delord House Museum, learn about old fashioned varieties of plants, find clues to the shape and color of the early gardens, go on field trips, serve on committees and decorate the House at Christmastime. Members of the Kent-Delord House Museum are eligible to become a member of the Garden Club and pay dues of $10.00 per year.
History of the Garden Club
In 1986, when the Garden Club was formed, the gardens had all but disappeared and the decorative front fence had been removed to prevent further deterioration, One of the club's first projects, to raise funds for the restoration of this fence, an essential design element of the house and front flower beds, was completed in 1993.
Drawing up diaries, correspondence, historical records, maps and photographs, garden club members continued to search for clues as to content and design of the gardens and use as many of the same species as possible to re-create the Delord family gardens.
The Master Plan
In 2001 the Garden Club engaged Lucinda Brockway of Past Designs, Kennebunk, ME., an historic landscape research and design firm, to develop a master plan. Using this plan, the gardens are systematically being recreated as they might have been during the period of 1812 to 1813, when three successive generations of Delords occupied the house.
The Formal Front Gardens
They were recreated in 1998. After several years of research by Garden Club members, a photograph from a pamphlet published in 1914, The Centenary of the Battle of Plattsburgh was discovered clearly showing a geometric design. The caption claimed the garden " ... is still maintained in its original form" This strict, formal, geometric style was brought form Europe by many early settlers and was used, almost without exception throughout the colonies and prevailed into the 19th century.
The East Garden
From family letters we know that a white tea rose was planted near the bay window and from old photographs that a climbing rose was also planted on this side of the house. Betsey's white rose, Rosa odorata indica, a cross between two China roses and a French Damask, probably no longer exists. In its place is a white French Damask rose, named Madame Hardy, which was introduced in France in 1832. The climbing rose, dating from the late 19th century, is Hattie Burton.
The Kitchen Garden
It is likely that Henry Delord's medical and culinary plants were grown as part of the larger garden,, mixed with the vegetable plants and/or with the flowers. This garden on the west side of the house contains plants commonly used in the nineteenth century for flavoring, medicine, fragrance or dyes.
Henry Delord's Alleys
As another step in the Master Plan, three of the alleys laid out by Henry Delord in 1812 were recreated in 2005, by removing strips of sod to a depth of eight inches and backfilling with crushed stones. Found during the process of shifting the soil, was a military jacket button from the 1st Regiment, U.S. Artillery, a unit that was here during the Battle of Plattsburgh in 1814.
From an old photograph, a recreation of a grape arbor was built on Frances Alley in 2006. It is planted with Isabella, a variety of grape mentioned in William Swetland's 1841 garden journal. Isabella is a superior chance hybrid of vinifera and labrusca, originating in South Carolina and promoted as early as 1816 as a chief alternative to Catawba.
In the front gardens are two Madame Grange clematis ca. 1875, climbing on white tuteurs and behind the house are three Duchess d'Orleans peonies, ca. 1824 and Helianthus multifloris, planted near the old summer dining room.
Don't miss the diorama displayed in the blue parlor!
In 2003 the Garden Club commissioned William Kissam to build a diorama of the Kent-Delord house and gardens ca. 1819 - 1913. It interprets changes over nearly 100 years of the Delord property. Henry's vegetable gardens were a major source of income and once covered the entire west parcel: on the diorama only a portion of these are shown at the rear of the property. The geometric formal gardens in the front of the house were established in 1812 with the aid of U.S. Army engineer, Lt. de Russey. The formal flower beds (just west of the barn) may have been established by Elizabeth and William Swetland or more probably by Henry's granddaughter, Frances and her husband when they returned from their European Wedding trip in 1856.