The private gardens of the Delta

The DNP has been collecting aerial views of the various gardens of the Delta.

There are many of them. Some have a purpose that can be surmised simply by looking at an aerial view; others are more enigmatic, but no less compelling.

Below are a few examples of Delta gardens - but before them, since the DNP wishes to emphasize the possibility of public access to the Delta’s levees, let’s place the Delta’s gardens in the arc of garden history vis-a-vis their private-to-public evolution.

Many of the great gardens in Europe began as the enclave of a noble family surrounded by farmland. Here is a plan of the manor at Bonnelles (Yvelines), from Mosser and Tessyot:

“The garden and the old chateau on its medieval platform, early eighteenth century.”


The functional definition of the landscape? Fields surrounding the manor house and village.

But by the end of the eighteenth century, here is “[t]he garden after the reconstruction of the chateau and the filling in of the moat, late eighteenth century; detail of the royal hunting reserves.”


There are the forms of French axial symmetry, but note the paths cutting across the forest - and imagine a member of the court, armed with a musket or something, standing along one of them, waiting for a deer to cross. You get the idea.

The Bois de Boulogne, today one of the most loved public spaces in Paris, once was a royal hunting ground. From Jellicoe:

[T]he city was criss-crossed with avenues that resembled the traditional hunting rides, except that the quarry was man and not beast. The original Bois de Boulogne, which had been such a forest, complete with rond-points, was transformed in 1852 in the English Picturesque style.


So later, after the revolution, when things settled down:


The English Picturesque style is among the ways that people still envision Nature, even though it is artificial.

So, what about this incredible labor of love just east of Staten Island, on Brack Tract?


An entirely artificial “natural” habitat garden.

Here, at the southeast corner of Bouldin Island, is some frozen nature overlooking two landscapes scoured out of the peat soil by two flood events: A washout garden lookout.


And, speaking of washout gardens, what could this be, on tiny Quimby Island?


The DNP likes to think it is a par three driving range. But enigmatic is this collection of islands set among the riparian landscape caused by a levee breach. Perhaps the purpose of its form may have something to do with a gradual process of reclamation after the flood.

On Venice Island, the DNP suspects that a similar project of gradual reclamation or stabilization underlies the visually curious picture we see here. This appears to be a drainage garden:


And finally, on the appropriately French-named Mandeville Island, there is a hunting garden cut through orderly rows of something cultivated. The island is a playpen of the wealthy owners of the Tuscany Research Institute, dedicated to creating habitat for the pintail duck:


Remember, in French garden history, hunting grounds began as royal enclaves, but ultimately became beloved public parks.

Posted by John Bass on 07 Feb 2010 | Comments (1)


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