Over 200 years ago, a man named George Carter inherited a large parcel of land in Northern Virginia, over 3,400 acres. On this land he built a plantation, complete with a mansion, with the primary crop being wheat.
However, wheat wasn't the only investment Carter placed effort in, as he built his plantation, he'd also designed an elaborate garden that is adjoined to the mansion. Many of those plantings still exist today.
The garden is large, made up of several terraces, levels and sections. Visitors can wander through each nook and find themselves in an entirely different looking place, in a serene area separated from the rest. There are numerous plants, shrubs, trees and statues placed throughout the gardens. Walking through you get a sense of how life may have been on such a property, only experienced by those affluent enough to afford such luxury.
The teahouse located within the Oatlands' garden. This structure overlooks a bowling green with the reflecting pool on the other end.
After the Civil War, the Carter fortune suffered. George Carter had died before the war and the property was managed by his wife Elizabeth Grayson Carter, along with her sons. The family never was able to recover the house to its once grand position and during the post-Civil War era, the home was used as a girls' school and a bed and breakfast; in 1897 the family sold the property, but the new owner never lived in the mansion.
Over time another family purchased the property, Mr. and Mrs. William Corcoran Eustis. The Eustis' bought the elaborate home as their country home in 1903, and Edith Eustis took on the mission of reviving the ruins of the once magnificent gardens.
Reflecting pool built by Edith Eustis in the 1930s
Oatlands' website states, "Edith Eustis saw the garden ruin as a quiet, still, mysterious place harboring “old secrets” that inspired her to fill Carter’s terraces with boxwood-lined parterres full of fragrant and colorful flowers such as tulips, peonies, iris, and lilies. Romantic plant containers, statuary, and structures were added."
In 1923 it is said Mrs. Eustis had stated, "It was a thankful task to restore the old beauty, although the thoughts and conceptions were new, they fitted it. And every stone vase or bench, every box-hedge planted, seemed to fall into its rightful place and become a part of the whole.”
Today the gardens are restored to their earlier splendor, and continue to be tended with care. Walking through it is easy to imagine they look a lot like what they once did over 19th and 20th centuries.
Looking beyond the gardens to hills across the way, new housing can be seen in the distance, but I imagine the view is not unlike it may have been two hundred, even 100, years ago. Carter seems to have picked an ideal position on the hill to place the house.