gardens of bunny mellon

Bunny Mellon and her Norwich terrier walk along a path on the Middle Terrace toward the Square Garden, 1960s.

Bunny Mellon was an heiress, an art collector, and an antiques expert, but she was happiest wielding a pair of garden clippers. Even as a child, Mellon was drawn to landscape design, sketching a garden shed and, later as a teen, drawing schemes for the redesign of her prep school grounds. “Gardening is a way of thinking,” Mellon used to say, and in The Gardens of Bunny Mellon (Vendome, 2018), readers have a chance to get inside her head.

Though steeped in scholarship, Mellon’s gardens convey an ease and optimism that feel purely visceral, whether at Oak Spring, her beloved farm in Virginia, a town house in New York City, a country estate in France, or the White House Rose Garden. Benches invite contemplation; café tables entice guests to linger in conversation; sight lines lead the eye to the horizon; unexpected bedfellows in garden beds surprise and delight.

Sir Peter Crane, president of the Oak Spring Garden Foundation, summarized Mellon’s approach to landscape design as one where “nothing should be noticed,” meaning outdoor spaces should feel natural and intuitive. (Crane wryly notes that to achieve that, of course, means that “no detail should be ignored.”) Mellon’s ingenious, often underappreciated body of work should be noticed, and this book is a valuable contribution to that end.

By Kirk Reed Forrester

The Gardens of Bunny Mellon by Linda Holden (Vendome, 2018)

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