Gardens are ephemeral things. Left to their own devices, they can quickly be subsumed by nature once again with natives and weeds running wild through the once-carefully managed beds. In this case, though, Sunnie-Holme was actually destroyed by its owner, who declared the that house and grounds should be removed when she died. Very little remains today to mark where this garden and home once stood. You can see some current photos in this article, Economic Disaster: Have’s and Have-Not’s – Fairfield, CT Patch.
In it’s prime in the photo below, the garden looks to be a wonderful combination of exuberant (and somewhat wild-looking) beds contrasted with manicured lawns and the sharp edge of the pond which lacks any sort of plants at all. I think the addition of some water lies or cattails might have added an interesting note there. Still, this photo does show how contrasting elements can bring a certain excitement and interest to a garden. As with writing, contrast, comparison and conflict are which bring energy to the story and I think the same items can be brought to a garden, too.
From the Smithsonian Institution…
Miss Annie Burr Jennings, daughter of a founder of Standard Oil Company, built Sunnie-Holme in 1909-1910. For thirty years, the house was the social center of the town during the summer months. It is unclear who designed the original parterre gardens; Miss Jennings later re-designed the gardens with herbaceous perennials, roses, and flowering shrubs. Her gardens were designed to be at their peak during the summer, when she resided in the house. Over thirty gardeners kept the extensive plantings maintained. Each of the three parallel paths leading from the main house south toward the sound were bordered with perennials in various color schemes or a vine-covered arbor. The designs were influenced by the writings of Gertrude Jekyll, whom whe met a Munstead wood in 1926, and from whom she commissioned the design for a garden at the Old Glebe House in Woodbury, Connecticut.
Located in the center of the garden was a formal rose garden, designed by Herbert Kellaway and rosarian, Mrs. Harriet Risley Foote, which had as its focal point an Italianate pool anchored by surrounding pergolas. Other garden “rooms” included “Irish,” evergreen, white, and an herb garden. A wild garden with Indian totem poles and a rustic lodge, was situated at the end of the property. In her will, Miss Jennings forbade that the gardens become a town park. Although she encouraged her heirs to continue the gardens, the property was sold. Sunnie-Holme was dismantled on the eve of World War II.
Persons associated with the property and garden include: Annie Burr jennings (former owner, 1909-1939); Herbert Kellaway (rose garden designer); and Harriett Risley Foote (rosarian). — http://siris-archives.si.edu/ipac20/ipac.jsp?uri=full=3100001~!243975!0
Further Information on Sunnie-Holme:
- The Sunnie-Holme Gardens of Annie Burr Jennings: Fairy Land Nearby from Wilton Online
- Sunnie-Holme on Siris
- Sunnie-Holme owner suffers extortion threat in 1930’s
Photographer: Scott, John Duer
Type: Projected media
Local number: CT004001
Physical description: 1 slide: glass lantern, col.; 3 x 5 in
Notes: See also Glebe House Museum, Woodbury, CT. The house was dismantled in 1940
Sunnie-Holme (Fairfield, Connecticut)
Repository:Archives of American Gardens
Previously in Garden History:
- “The Dunes,” Frank Bestow Wiborg house, Highway Behind the Pond, East Hampton, New York
- Henry Edwards Huntington house, Oxford Road, San Marino, California. (LOC)
- Pittville Gardens, Cheltenham, England
- “Willowmere,” Rear Admiral Aaron Ward house, 435 Bryant Avenue, Roslyn Harbor, New York (LOC)
- “The Appletrees,” Henry Eugene Coe house, Southampton, New York
- Thornewood, Tacoma, Washington
- Mrs. Francis Lemoine Loring house, 700 South San Rafael Avenue, San Rafael Heights, Pasadena, California. (LOC)
- Tatham Garden
- ‘Santa Barbara Mission, 2201 Laguna Street, Santa Barbara, California. (LOC)
- Your victory garden counts more than ever!
- “Villa Sciarra,” George Wurts house, via Calandrelli, Rome, Italy. (LOC)
- Whitworth Gardens, Darley Dale, Derbyshire, England
- John & Lizzie Wilson from Boston in Bradenton, Florida, 1951
- Paris Exposition: gardens, Paris, France, 1900
- Wisteria blooms in Davis Garden (Locust Valley, New York), 1930
- “Killenworth,” George Dupont Pratt house, Glen Cove, New York, ca. 1918
- A Garden Under Glass, Nice, France, c1865-1895