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Thursday, October 23, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 7/27/2014 - Updated: 2 months ago

Manor House garden getting new landscape

BY NATALIE TRUSSO CAFARELLO
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A view of the Shipman Garden from the top floor of the Manor House. A view of the Shipman Garden from the top floor of the Manor House.
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On a hot July day blossoming yellow roses seductively call the passerby to stop and take in their full scent and vision. The Julia Child rose bushes stand straight as an arrow -- with grace -- inside the Shipman Garden at Wildwood Metropark.

According to horticulturist Staci Stasiak, the roses are typical of what landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman planned for the Manor House garden, now called the Shipman Garden. On Thursday, Ms. Stasiak and Susan Roberts-McGlade, with the Wildwood programming staff, lead a group on a guided historical tour through the garden.

The garden’s vista is a spectacular view from the Colonial-style home’s second floor. From there the lady of the house could look over the lush green grounds and admire it from her bedroom.

Built in 1936, R.A. Stranahan and his wife Page hired the renowned artist to decorate the grounds with her natural artistic vision. Ms. Roberts-McGlade said Ms. Shipman stayed on the estate, dedicating herself to beautifying the grounds under the direction of Mrs. Stranahan.

The women said that Mrs. Stranahan wanted a cutting garden so many pastel flowers were planted, including asters, anemone, and lilies. She also required fresh flowers in the mansion daily.

Ms. Shipman designed more than 600 gardens for prominent families including the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers. A pioneer in her field, she was also a pioneer in woman’s rights, as she only hired women to work with her.

“The garden was pioneered for something to always be blossoming,” Ms. Stasiak said about the Shipman style.

Staci Stasiak, left, explains the variety of plants and flowers in the garden to visitors. Staci Stasiak, left, explains the variety of plants and flowers in the garden to visitors.
THE BLADE/ISAAC HALE Enlarge | Buy This Photo

The garden is about 1 acre of land, including the green lawn beside it, where an Olympic sized-pool once was. The pool is still there, but has been covered over with dirt.

She said the layout of the garden mirrored European designs.

“The formalness of the center with hedge boxwoods along the side with tree roses,” hinted toward an Italian inspiration, Ms. Stasiak said.

The garden was always part of the manor but in 2007 the Metroparks began a restoration project. Each year since, a phase has been undertaken to restore it to its original beauty.

More than 200 species of plants and trees have been installed in it. It has red brick walkways and pebbled paths that lead the admirer through trees, past serene ponds with cascading waterfalls, and fountains with whimsical creatures spouting out water into the pond.

The garden is a work in progress.

“[Rehabilitation] will never be complete,” Ms. Stasiak said. “Some plants didn’t make it over the brutal winter. Some plants are no longer available because the horticulture industry has changed over the years.”

In the end they try to stick to the original plans as much as possible. Flat topped blue spruce trees stand in one section where almond trees once stood. Pear trees grow with dangling fruit and flat branches -- tailored to grow against a brick wall -- are a representation of the fruit trees that Ms. Shipman planted around the estate.

The next guided tour is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Aug. 19 and 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 9.

Contact Natalie Trusso Cafarello at: 419-206-0356, or ntrusso@theblade.com, or on Twitter @natalietrusso.



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