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The second week of April is Garden Week, and to celebrate I’m bringing back the

Through the Garden Gate series.

The first garden I’ll be highlighting in 2013 is the garden at the Hermitage, in Nashville, Tennessee, the home of President Andrew Jackson.

Photo by Catherine CastleEntrance to RAchel Jackson's formal garden at the Hermitage

Photo by Catherine Castle
Entrance to Rachel Jackson’s formal garden at the Hermitage

This garden was originally created by Philadelphia-based English gardener, William Frost, in 1819. Designed as a typical four-square English garden, common in Europe since the Middle Ages, the formal garden has four quadrants, circular center beds, and tree-line paths.

Jackson had very little interest in the garden. His wife, Rachel, was the gardener of the family. According to the historic interpreters at the Hermitage, it wasn’t unusual to see Rachel in her garden. And avid gardener, Rachel had flowering plants including geraniums, daisies, wallflowers, and polyanthus brought from Cincinnati to beautify her little formal garden.

One of the architectural highlights of the garden is the Grecian style tomb monument that sits at the back of the garden. When Jackson’s wife died in 1829, he had her buried in the garden that she loved. A fitting end, in my opinion, for any gardener. A couple of years later, in 1831, a monument was designed by architect David Morrison to replace the small burial house that stood over Rachel’s grave.  Later, Andrew Jackson was buried beneath the tomb, too. To the side of the tomb is a small family burial plot.

photo by Catherine CastleAndrew and Rachel Jackson's tomb monument

photo by Catherine Castle
Andrew and Rachel Jackson’s tomb monument

What the garden looked like in Rachel’s day may not be exactly what it looks like now. The garden is believed to have been redesigned a number of times. The Ladies’ Hermitage Association, formed in 1889, spent a lot of time interviewing persons who had visited the gardens and also used Jackson’s granddaughter as a resource in order to restore the gardens as closely as possible to its original state and horticulture.


photo by Catherine Castle
The circle garden beds in the center of the formal gardens

 Today’s garden is thought to be one of the most authentic early gardens in America. Some of the plants, including several trees and flowering bulbs, were planted in Jackson’s time or are direct descendents of the original plants. The white picket fence, which replaced cedar rails, new brick paths laid in the late 1800s, and gravel paths added in the early 1900s are some of the newer changes to the garden.

It was spring in Rachel’s garden when we visited it a few weeks ago. Walk with me Through The Garden Gate into the  historic formal garden owned by our seventh president, Andrew Jackson and his wife, Rachel. I hope you’ll enjoy the tree-lined pathways planted with daffodils, crocuses, peonies, hyacinths, and Virginia bluebells as much as I did on the crisp spring morning when we visited.


photo by Catherine Castle
View from the back of the garden looking at the house


photo by Catherine Castle
Pussy willow catkins


photo by Catherine Castle
Blooming witch hazel with Hermitage in background


photo by Catherine Castle
Virginia blue bells at the base of a Crepe Myrtle tree


photo by Catherine Castle
Daffodil beds


photo by Catherine Castle
View down the center allee of the garden

Have you ever been to the Hermitage garden?