Fruit trees are destined for the RJD landscape early next year, returning an essential historical element to the gardens. The creation of a small orchard or fruit tree planting in the southwest quadrant of the property is the first step in a multi-year rehabilitation plan as outlined in the Museum’s recently completed Cultural Landscape Study Treatment Plan.
In partnership with the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, a committee of members of the Garden Club of Buzzards Bay, Museum staff, and area consultants collaborated with the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation to draft a Landscape Treatment Plan for the Museum property. The goal was to create a document that would preserve, enhance and interpret the property at 396 County Street within the context of its existing and future conditions and uses.
“Having such a plan elevates the significance of the landscape at this National Historic Landmark, and moving forward, the house and gardens will be interpreted in tandem,” notes Director Kate Corkum.
The plan recommends as period of significance 1880, when the ornate and labor-intensive Jones family landscape reflected the prosperity and affluence of the whaling industry. Returning elements of garden design from the Jones era, in addition to enhanced support materials with period images and garden plans, will help visitors step back in time and experience the special sense of place in this historic landscape.
Rehabilitation of the gardens, rather than restoration which would require much stricter adherence to original design and historic plant material, provides the opportunity to meet changing needs and uses of the landscape, while perpetuating the character of the property and preservation of existing historic features.
The Garden Club of Buzzards Bay is conducting research on the recommendations of the Treatment Plan for plantings, and exploring other heirloom varieties as well. As part of their celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Garden Club of America, the Garden Club of Buzzards Bay will donate the fruit trees, which will be planted in the spring of 2013.
In preparation, an aged and inappropriate Norway maple tree and diseased cherry trees that were never part of the formal garden plan were removed and replanted with disease resistant Princeton elms this spring. The elms will provide a shade canopy much like the elms that once lined both sides of County Street.
The tree removal and elm planting work was done in conjunction with the restoration of the historic board fence on the south boundary of the property. The final phase of fence restoration, which began in 2001, will be completed on County Street by the fall of 2012.
The pathway of the Woodland Garden in the southwest quadrant will be straightened and existing plant material evaluated. Historically appropriate shrubs and perennials will be cataloged and transplanted to the perimeter border to make room for the new fruit trees.
Additional recommendations in the future plans of the RJD landscape rehabilitation align the landscape more closely to the period of significance. These projects include re-configuring the visitor entrance, the relocation of a stairway from the north side of the house to the south porch as it was situated during the Jones residency, rehabilitation and resurfacing of the circular driveway and plantings on County Street, and archaeological exploration of the terrace area at the rear of the house, believed to have been the Rotch and Jones era work yards.
Such archaeological exploration could yield significant findings about how such domestic work spaces were utilized in the 19th century.
Alterations to the landscape will be accomplished over time, as the Museum secures the necessary funding and accommodates scheduling of Museum programming and events. “The rehabilitation of the southwest quadrant is the first phase of many that will beautify the gardens, enhance interpretation and ensure the best use and care of the Rotch-Jones-Duff house and gardens for generations to come,” notes Kate Corkum.