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Yaddo Garden Association

The Pergola
The Pergola


A gift of love, the Yaddo Gardens were given by Spencer Trask to his wife Katrina.

"Spencer Trask laid out this rose garden in honor of his wife Katrina, author, poet, woman. Goe happy rose and enterwove with other flowers, bind my love. 1899" - Inscription on the gateway leading from the Yaddo Mansion to the Gardens

The Trasks purchased the estate in 1881. After their four children died before maturity, the Trasks established Yaddo as a center for the arts upon their own deaths. The gardens were, "The Poet's Corner of Yaddo."

Katrina wanted her garden to be a garden of delight, a garden of romance, one that held more than flowers, and one where the flowers were seen for what they were and not what they are called. Nameless flowers could "fit themselves unto the tune which is within the heart."

The Trasks designed their gardens based on their own acquaintance with its model, the Italian classical gardens seen by them on their trips abroad. The gardens were to be a combination of the orderly formal and the free, poetic and idyllic: a mix of man's art with nature. The Trasks wanted an expression of their own lives: neither satyrs nor fauns here!

As you approach the gardens, you cross the great lawn in front of and downhill from the Yaddo Mansion, a Tudor-like castle completed in 1893. At the foot of the lawn is a pool containing fountains centered by a statue of two naiads (water nymphs) being teased by a cherub to awaken. Water lilies grow in the pool.

ST/KT Gate
ST/KT Gate
Photo courtesy Dan Cooper Photography
Your entrance to the rose gardens is through the ST/KT Gate. The gate is made of glazed terracotta Ionic columns and entablature and a marble sill. Spencer Trask and Katrina Trask's initials are molded in the entablature. An iron grill gate completes the entrance.

The rose garden is laid out on a north-south east-west axis. It is divided into four formal but not symmetrical beds. A central axis is the basis for the design. The north/south axis is the ST/KT Gate, the rose garden fountain pool and poet's bench. The east/west axis is the Christalan statue, the pool, and the balcony. Terraces, a balcony, and a rose-covered terracotta columned pergola overlook the rose garden. Beyond the pergola is a rock garden.

The Yaddo Garden Association initiated the restoration of the gardens in 1991. At the start a wide variety of roses in white, red, pink, and yellow tea roses and floribundas were planted together to reflect Katrina's color scheme. In 1994, standard roses were introduced. Polyantha roses were planted at the base of the standard roses to simulate the early planting of dwarf roses. Since then new varieties of roses have been added for a variety of colors and resistance to fungus and disease. A low hedge of barberry borders each of the gardens.

Marble steps climb the slope on the west side of the gardens to the balcony, pergola, and the rock garden. On the sides of the steps are large terracotta jardinières filled with geraniums.

On the first terrace above the main rose gardens are a hedge of rugosa roses. The cultivars are original to the Trask's garden.

The second terrace is marked by terracotta jardinières filled with small spruce trees. The balcony includes a sundial inscribed with a poem by the Trasks' friend, the poet Henry Van Dyke. Here is the poem as inscribed, slightly modified from the published version:

Too slow for those who wait
Too swift for those who fear
Too long for those who grieve
Too short for those who rejoice
But for those who Love Time is

And, around the sundial, marking the hours:

"Hours Fly, Flowers Die, New Days, New Ways, Pass By, Love Stays."

The pergola, constructed of glazed terracotta Ionic columns with a wooden trellis top, rises on the third terrace. In summer, it is covered by Blaze climbing roses and some older roses of unidentified variety.

Rock Garden
Rock Garden
The rock garden and Allee lie behind the pergola. The Allee is the entrance to the gardens from the mansion. The gate at the entrance is a glazed terracotta classical porch with ionic columns. Lawn and trees border the Allee path. Large terracotta jardinières filled with geraniums are arranged along the path.

The rock garden is a formal design with an informal treatment. The garden is now deeply shaded by100-year-old pine trees. There are two levels of gardens, each with its own pool, fountain, and connecting stream. A statue of a nymph and dolphin are in the lower pool. The rocks in the garden are dolomite selected by Mr. Trask from his own quarry. The plants are shade-loving woodland and rock plants with shade and semi shade perennial beds in the lower garden. Paths meander through both of the gardens and the surrounding woodland.

East of the rose beds are Italian marble statues of the four seasons. Spring is holding flowers, Summer has fruit, Fall holds shaves of wheat, and Winter carries pinecones.

In a pine tree lined alcove east of the Seasons, a statue of a youth, "Christalan" stands William Ordway Partridge sculpted it in marble in 1900 as a "memorial to the children of the house." Christalan represents youth, chivalry, and victory over mortality. The white myrtle around the base of the statue symbolizes innocence. Each of the Trasks' deceased childrens' names is carved in the base.

Yaddo and its gardens were named as one of the Seven Wonders of the Capital District for 2009.