During the recent mid-winter lock downs, the farthest some of my gardening adventures have gone have been in my mind. Helped along by books. Which, for all my life, have made the winters rich and cozy.
My most recent discovery was found through The Loveliest Woman in America by Bibi Gaston.
A huge part of the book is about place and is written by a landscape architect. It is also about a family and the ways in which a family can be fractured through tragedy and greed.
The Loveliest Woman in America was Rosamond Pinchot. The author is her granddaughter, who learns about her family through Rosamond's diaries (given to her just a few years ago). Rosamond was an actress from New York Society - who killed herself at a very young age in 1938.
One of the places that we keep returning to, as readers, is the family's Grey Towers. A French-inspired mansion in Milford, Pennsylvania. Surrounded by verdant, moss-covered woodlands and waterfalls that fed private swimming holes.
Grey Towers also boasted some seriously manicured and thought-out formal gardens. Which included a curious bit of hardscaping called The Finger Bowl. Under a domed, vine-laden pergola sits a stone water table with a blue bottom. Guests would sit around the table and dine, while 'plates heavy with food sailed back and forth across the water on wooden barges.' Scaring, I would imagine, the goldfish that moved in a sleek fashion just below water's edge.
Fascinating! Photos below are then and now photos of The Finger Bowl. Pure fodder for mid-winter, mental health garden trips of the mind's eye.
Photo credits: The first three photos are courtesy of Grey Towers and their lovely website. The bottom photo is courtesy of Steve Silk, taken from his article on Pergolas and Arbors in Gardening Gone Wild.