American Themed Gardens at the American Museum
A tour of the unique and beautiful gardens at the American Museum and Gardens in Bath, a seamless blend of American planting and the British countryside. - 05 May 2023
Just ten minutes from Bath, the American Museum & Gardens is located on a hilltop which has spectacular views over the Limpley Stoke Valley and River Avon, set in 125 acres of rolling green topography. The Grade II listed gardens include 2.5 acres of formal gardens, which underwent substantial renovation in 2018 by world-renowned, Washington DC-based landscape architectural firm, Oehme, van Sweden, for their first European public commission. The grounds now include the New American Garden, the Mount Vernon Garden, and the Children’s Garden, as well as an arboretum, wilderness trail and parklands for further exploration.
Oehme, van Sweden were tasked to create an American landscape, connecting the museum’s Georgian manor house to the panoramic valley views with a style that visitors would find interesting throughout the year. They designed a series of American-themed gardens and landscape exhibits, using a free-form style made famous by the firm’s founders, Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden. The architects gave the landscape an open, American feel, and knitted together different feature areas with accessible paths. The gardens are inspired by various elements of historical American landscape design, such as the productive gardens at George Washington’s Mount Vernon and the meandering paths at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, and they also showcase contemporary features such as prairie-style planting and a lawn amphitheatre.
Photo: Peter Hall
Named for OvS’ hallmark style, the New American Garden has both horticultural complexity and architectural craftsmanship, with a profusion of colour, texture, movement and fragrance throughout the year. In spring, the garden features more than 40,000 narcissus (there are more than 60,000 across the whole site) with 18 different varieties flowering across March and April. In May, when we are hosting the Rare Plant Fair, the garden is full of textural green growth, with colour from Euphorbia and Thalictrum aquilegiifolium. Thousands of rising alliums are a striking feature this month, with seven different cultivars flowering in succession from the end of May. Look out for the handkerchief tree, Davidia involucrata, and the foxglove tree, Paulownia tomentosa, which also look beautiful at this time of year.
Photo: Peter Hall
In June and July, American roses and rose cultivars that have played a role in American garden history, such as Rosa 'Harison's Yellow', also known as the Oregon trail rose or Yellow rose of Texas are in full bloom. A tapestry of over 12,000 plants, drawn mainly from a palette of American native perennials, an Oehme, van Sweden signature element, create the summer display with swathes featuring Pennisetum orientale 'Karley Rose', Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii 'Goldsturm' and Hylotelephium 'Herbstfreude' to name just a few. Ornamental grasses are a key feature of the garden, with more than 30 varieties uniting the expansive borders, including several varieties of miscanthus, molinia, pancium and pennisetum. In autumn, the prairie-style planting has beautiful colour and texture, along with a range of trees, among them several American specimens, in the garden and arboretum.
The Mount Vernon Garden is a reproduction of the 18th-century Upper Garden at George Washington’s estate in Virginia, with its shield shape, white picket fence, historic seed hut and planting. It was completely updated in 2017, in response to a new interpretation of the historical plans by the team at the original Mount Vernon. American Museum & Gardens’ Head Gardener at the time, Andy Cannell, travelled to Virginia and created a new design for the museum’s garden that captured the spirit and planting of Mount Vernon, with four Buxus sempervirens 'Herrenhausen' parterre fleur de lis, which symbolize the friendship between America's first president and the Marquis de Lafayette, ornamental planting, fruit trees and vegetable beds. Twelve Vitis vinifera 'Chardonnay' are a feature at the centre of the garden, where produce is grown for the visitor cafe – the American Garden Deli.
Photo: Peter Hall
In addition to the newly renovated gardens, remnants of the old Italianate style manorial pleasure gardens and parkland, dating from the 1820s, can be seen within the grounds, including period features such as a grotto, balustrade and curtain walling, and ornamental stonework.
In 2023, the gardens will benefit from the American Museum & Gardens’ involvement with the ‘America’s Wild’ show garden, designed by Inspired Earth Design for RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival. After the show, plants from the ‘America's Wild’ show garden will be relocated to the American Museum & Gardens and the US Embassy in London. Rehoming the plants will revitalise the gardens in a sustainable way and be in keeping with the design created by Oehme, van Sweden.
Our 2023 Fair at The American Museum and Gardens takes place on Sunday, May 21st