Blithewood Garden: Celebrate the Present

BLITHEWOOD IS POSSIBLY the most beautiful spot we have on campus. It is the place where the Bard community holds many special events, academic classes, group tours, seminars, and receptions. It is also where the local community comes to hike, recreate, and simply soak up the landscape and relax. Blithewood is Bard’s Central Park, an outdoor place for all ages to enjoy. Bard is fortunate to have such a valuable, beautiful and historic site to showcase and call its own. The house you see today was built by Captain Andrew C. Zabriskie (1853–1916) and his wife, Frances Hunter Zabriskie (d. 1951), who purchased the property in 1899. They commissioned Francis L. V. Hoppin (1867–1941), of the architectural firm Hoppin & Koen, to design a house and garden.

Blithewood Garden is a quintessentially architectural garden. Built during the Gilded Age (1870–1900), it follows the traditional Italianate design, with 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.”

Blithewood’s formal garden, lawn, and woodlands contain remnants of vegetation that once existed around much of the estate. Historically, Frances Hunter Zabriskie, who was an enthusiastic gardnerer, would have included clipped evergreens, tree peonies, tulips, irises, hyacinths, gladiola, daffodils, phlox, delphiniums, lavender, forget-me- nots, ivy, butterfly bush, rhododendrons, lilacs, wisteria, and rugosa and climbing roses, as well as maintained turf. Many of these species are still grown in the garden today. There was no singular color scheme. Potted annuals also grace the garden each year. The nearby woodlands contain remnants of vegetation that once existed around much of the estate.

In November 2016, the Friends of the Landscape and Arboretum Program at Bard joined forces with the Garden Conservancy to create The Friends of Blithewood Garden. We’re working together to plan a rehabilitation project to make much needed repairs. The Garden Conservancy’s role is to assist in project planning and management and guidance on options for rehabilitation. They will also use their national network to raise visibility and provide promotional support for the project. Blithewood Garden was included in the Garden Conservancy’s 2017 Open Days Directory.

To view a detailed plan of the Blithewood Garden, please click here: Blithewood Garden Map

Blithewood Garden: Celebrate the Present