When the Kentlands Mansion side garden Cypress trees were seriously damaged in a heavy snowstorm six years ago, city staff found a silver lining. “We needed to replace the trees,” recalled Kristy King, Kentlands Mansion administrator. “After looking at the space, we started developing the idea that it can really be enhanced.”
The Kentlands Mansion is a popular wedding venue, and it hosts many outdoor ceremonies. While the side garden had long been used for these ceremonies, it was not ideal. The bride and groom would exit the back of the mansion to walk up the aisle and marry overlooking the mansion’s broad expanse of lawn. Staff felt photos of the couple exiting the back of the mansion were not as picturesque as they could be. And guests would enter and exit the garden on three sides.
“Where the garden was previously, we made do with what we had,” King said. The snowstorm damage, “allowed us to really look at the space and think of what would be ideal for the ceremony.”
To that end, they engaged David Post with Damascus-based PostModern Landscape Architecture. “He met with us and talked about the pros and the cons and the history of the mansion and … he was able to incorporate that all into the design,” King said.
They flipped the design of the space so that couples would exit from the front of the mansion, turn right and the walk up the side garden aisle to marry before an attractive water feature. A gate at the back ensures that guests will enter and exit only at the front of the garden.
Post explained that the garden “complements the historic nature of the house and the community. Although the house is built primarily with brick, natural stone was used for the garden walls to visually connect with the foundations of the nearby structures and to provide a contrast with the brick-faced mansion. The paving is flagstone, a natural material that was also used during the early 20th century to give the garden a unique contrast to the brick walks elsewhere on site. The gate takes cues from the metal work on the mansion and fences nearby.”
The Kentlands Mansion was built in 1900 and expanded in 1942. Post chose plants reminiscent of early 20th century gardens—Silverbells, Boxwoods, the Black Gum or Tupelo tree, Hollies, the Serviceberry tree, Viburnums, Weigela, Begonias and Crepe Myrtle. “All the plants were selected based on their ability to ward off disease and pests,” he added.
A rainy spring has curtailed use of the new garden, but two couples have been married there under sunny skies. “They loved the space,” King said. “It allows us to make the dream come true of having an outdoor wedding, a couple that’s proclaiming their love in front of family and friends under blue skies and surrounded just by the beauty of nature, the trees and the shrubs and the flowers—that was our goal, and I think we were able to achieve that.”
Staff also wanted to use the side garden for community events. “Our programming staff is really creative, coming up with ideas and trying to reach the whole audience,” King said.
The result is a Garden Gathering Series that kicks off with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, July 12, 6 to 7:30 p.m. Everyone is invited to join City of Gaithersburg elected officials as they unveil the new garden. The evening also will feature live painting by Michelle Izquierdo, a Murder Mystery teaser by a Taste for Murder Productions, and complimentary refreshments by Stone Soup Catering.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony is free. Events planned through September—a Canines & Cocktails yappy hour on Thursday, July 19, 6 to 8 p.m.; a Family Game Night on Friday, Aug. 3, 6 to 8 p.m.; and Garden Thyme upcycled gardening and herbs on Monday, Sept. 17, 4:30-6 p.m.—incur a nominal fee.
The Garden Gathering Series will hibernate through the winter, “and we will look to do another series in the spring,” King said.