Ribbons, Roses and Wine in the Garden: Box Knot Rededicated


Tudor Place Trustee Bruce Whelihan, here flanked by
wife Alice (RIGHT) and Executive Director Leslie Buhler,
was celebrated for helping to secure funding for the
project from The Ruth S. Willoughby Foundation.
Celebration came to these historic gardens this month when Tudor Place Trustees and staff gathered with neighbors and other supporters to “cut the ribbon” on the newly restored Box Knot Garden. This formal layout of heirloom roses in geometric beds defined by boxwood hedges dates to the home’s earliest days. Its renewal and restoration for centuries to come, completed in November 2011, signals the commitment to the preservation of the entirety of historic assets stewarded by Tudor Place Foundation for the public good.
The North Garden donned its best spring colors for the evening reception, which featured wine, canapes, and heartfelt remarks on the historic estate’s past, present, and bright future. Once the ribbon was released, guests trod lightly among the flower beds where Tudor Place founder Martha Custis Peter herself once tended beloved roses. During the Civil War, the garden fell into disrepair and its original layout was lost. It was recovered in the 1926 from a garden design book showing Avenel, in Virginia, where the Knot had been copied, and a restoration was completed in 1933 based on the Avenel drawing.

The sundial that centers the geometric layout came from CrossBasket Castle in Lanarkshire, Scotland, the childhood home of Robert Peter, tobacco merchant and first mayor of Georgetown. His son Thomas bought the land on which Tudor Place sits with his wife, the former Martha Custis, in 1805. They funded the eight-acre purchase with a legacy from George Washington of $8,000 (some $11 million in today’s dollars).
Trustee Dan Dowd came prepared for rain, but none fell.
Instead, a gray twilight lent its glow to the spring blossoms.


Curator of Collections Erin Kuykendall (RIGHT) shared stories with
Collections Committee member Elizabeth Edgeworth.


Director of Gardens & Grounds Suzanne Bouchard, who shepherded the project from vision to completion, discusses its contours with Board Vice President Geoffrey Baker and Trustee Margaret Jones Steuart.


Guests were invited to take home cuttings from the
estate’s historic boxwood.


The Circle Garden, with the aroma of mock
oranges floating in from its perimeter, made a
perfect setting for cocktails.


As a token of appreciation, Mr. Baker presented Mr.
Whelihan a painting of the restored garden, commissioned
for the occasion from Tudor Place Artist-in-Residence Peter Waddell.


Director Leslie Buhler exchanges a word with Trustee
C. Jackson Ritchie, cradling his boxwood seedling.


A new leaf, literal and figurative, for a landscape nearly spanning our country’s history — truly something to celebrate!


Tudor Place Garden Restoration Heralds Commitment to Long-Term Preservation

Press Contact:
Communications Officer
Mandy Katz, mkatz@tudorplace.org
Mobile: 202.486.7645
Website: www.tudorplace.org
Tudor Place Historic House and Garden
1644 31st Street NW
Washington, DC 2007

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May 9, 2012

Washington, D.C. – May 9, 2012 — Tudor Place Trustees, neighbors, and other supporters gathered yesterday evening in the historic Georgetown estate’s North Garden to dedicate the National Historic Landmark’s newly restored Box Knot Garden. The project restored the feature to its appearance in 1933, which itself replicated its earliest incarnation.

“This is the first significant garden restoration to be completed at Tudor Place since it passed out of private hands in the 1980s,” said Executive Director Leslie Buhler. “On a practical level, the restoration enables more sustainable horticultural practices and helps ensure this historic feature’s hardiness and growth. On a symbolic level, it exemplifies the high standards we have established for site-wide preservation efforts.”

Such improvements are only achieved through the help of dedicated donors, noted Geoffrey Baker, Vice President of the museum’s Board of Trustees, during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. He thanked J. Bruce Whelihan, Trustee of The Ruth S. Willoughby Foundation, for the significant grant that funded theproject.

Mr. Whelihan praised the Box Knot restoration as a positive step toward ensuring the entire site’s future. A Tudor Place Trustee, Mr. Whelihan noted, “These are exciting times with plans under development to fully preserve the house, collection, and garden and, at the same time, provide exhibition and dedicated education spaces.”

The restoration echoes an effort undertaken in the 1930s by owner Armistead Peter, Jr., and his son Armistead Peter 3rd. They recreated in large part the original 1816 Box Knot once tended by Martha Custis Peter, granddaughter to Martha Washington, and her husband Thomas Peter, the home’s founding owners. In recent years, the garden’s geometric hedges inlaid with rose bushes were increasingly stressed by poor drainage and changing climatic conditions, requiring frequent watering.

Director of Gardens & Grounds Suzanne Bouchard, who guided the restoration, described to attendees how the plant beds were excavated and their shrubs replaced with a new variety of boxwood more suited to D.C.’s climate. Roses, including specimens dating to the home’s earliest years, were temporarily removed and restored to their original locations, where they are now blooming prodigiously.

Located in Georgetown’s Historic District, this National Historic Landmark is a house museum distinguished for its neoclassical architecture, decorative arts collection, and five-and-a-half acre garden. Built in 1816, it was home to Thomas Peter and his wife, Martha Custis Peter, granddaughter of Martha Washington. It housed six generations of the Peter family over the course of 180 years. Now, open to the public, the historic home is one of our nation’s hidden gems. For details visit www.tudorplace.org