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Daily Garden: Clara’s Meditation Garden & My New Project….

May 18, 2010

Last week, I happened my way into an exciting new project that I want to share (and ask for a little help with).

It all started with the search for a Chinese goddess…(isn’t that a great way to start a story?)

My good friend (and yoga instructor) who teaches at the Fruitlands Museum caught wind of a goddess statue that once graced the grounds and she decided to try and find out where it went… Kiuanyn (or  Guan Yin who is the Chinese goddess of Mercy — and can be seen in the garden picture below) stood in what was thought to be the Meditation gardens of Clara Endicott Sears.

An amazing woman, Clara Endicott Sears, once owned a beautiful home on Prospect Hill in my town of Harvard.  She was an extraordinary pioneering woman, and as I learn more about her legacy, her beliefs and her path through life, my respect and sense of kinship with her grows.  Clara was, among many other things, the founder of The Fruitlands Museum and on the site of Fruitlands,  she had a beautiful home that she called The Pergolas. Clara had her own visions of beauty and designed her home and garden herself, refusing to allow an architect or landscape designer to force her into a prescribed vision of beauty.

The Pergolas before it was torn down shortly after Clara Endicott Sears died.

When my friend learned about Guan Yin, which lead to the meditation garden where she stood…she called me….and after a couple happy afternoons of twigs in our hair as we crawled through over grown brush playing garden detectives….I am happy that our initial research has paved the way for this piece of Clara’s extraordinary gardens to be restored…. I am so excited to be planning and guiding the garden restoration into reality.  Right now we are still piecing together, through pictures and on site investigation, what once existed and what remnants remain…

So here is where I am hoping you can help….here is what the garden used to look like and what it will resemble again. (I am not sharing what it looks like now as I am saving that for a later post once it is restored)

Every non-gardener who looks at this image says “oh wow….look at her beautiful lupines….”  but I am convinced they are wrong….those are digitalis – foxgloves right? back me up here (unless I am totally wrong) but the leaves are not lupine. I know it is hard to see but look closely — and while you are at it…if you can positively identify any other garden plants, I would love to hear it.  Also,  I think this may have been a white garden….given the limitations of black and white photography, as I study this, I am starting to come to this conclusion….what do you think?

(I have uploaded this in such a way so that, I think,  if you click on the image in the gallery, you will be able to see it at the full size -perhaps giving just a bit more detail)

Also — has anyone seen Guan yin?  Clara had roots in Peabody, MA as well as on Beacon Hill (Boston Brahmin)…and the original Guan Yin should be somewhere….have you seen it? in a museum?  She is apparently carved from ‘white fine veined marble’ (that is her on the left presiding over the garden).   Any clues any of you might be able to offer would be a huge help in this garden restoration project.


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  1. Jennifer says:

    I couldn’t see it larger, so I can’t see the leaves; from what I can see, look like white delphiniums? If not, foxglove seems the next best possibility. Definitely too full to be lupines!

    • rochelle says:

      did you click on the image in the gallery below? I think that is the way to see it bigger….

      thanks for the back up though…I knew it wasn’t lupine….plus it is a shade garden…

  2. That stalk makes me think it might be eremurus.

  3. Sylvie says:

    I think foxgloves. Also, as a photographer, besides the whites I think there may be some blues or purples in that front left border – some kind of salvia, or forget-me-nots?

  4. Dawn Isaac says:

    I think foxgloves – Eremurus tends to have slimmer flowerheads and delphiniums would probably look less prolific and random – these appear to be self sown to a certain extent.

    Also, think front left is probably Nepeta.

  5. Andrew says:

    Digitalis all the way. It does appear as though there are a lot of whites here too, but the black and white makes me wonder if there are other, darker colors that read as gray, or pale pastels that read as white. VERY cool project, though!

  6. Sheila H says:

    I think it’s foxgloves because one of the plant flower open up to size of foxglove flowers and lupines have small flowers. There also looks like catmint and maybe some Canada anemone or daisy flowers. I can’t click on the picture to enlarge but there may be a small evergreen shrub. I wonder what kind of flowers Clara was wearing in her picture? Maybe she has some of that in her garden. I would do a local newspaper article to see if there are any elderlies who may remember the garden. What an exciting project! That’s a dream of mine to restore a long lost garden someday!

  7. Layanee says:

    Definitely foxgloves. The plant in the lower left front of the border is shaped like a Nepeta or lavender even. The other looks like Geranium sanguineum. I will keep an eye out for Guan Yin.

  8. Bill says:

    I asked my father why the garden and house was destroyed after her death in 1960. He was not sure but he did say Clara was a wonderful person. My father used to find indian arrow heads near the garden area growing up…. (1930’s) There is allot of history on that hill!

    • rochelle says:

      Wow Bill, I would love to hear more stories about ‘the hill’ — your father lived nearby? and he knew Clara? Are you nearby? maybe I can pick you brain for more stories over coffee sometime?

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