The Gardeners of Starin Place
When John H. Starin occupied Starin Place, he employed 110 gardeners and the Head Gardener was the only one who lived on site. This past year, Fortroyal Foundation concentrated on restoring the Head Gardener’s house, located in the rear of the property. We started the project by insulating the attic and now we are almost done restoring the whole house. We hope to finish painting the exterior in summer 2011.
In addition to the job of hand scything the monstrous front lawn, Starin’s gardeners grew the crops and hay for all the animals and nurtured the trees that Starin imported from every country he visited in Europe and Asia, not to mention the numerous trees from around the United States. The gardeners created Victorian plantings around the property, and these plantings spelled out sayings. They braided and grafted different trees together to make unique specimen trees, and used water weights to force the pine and fur to form lateral side branches, which swooped out 8 to 10 feet before resuming their upward spines.
The gardeners also created “summer houses” out of apple trees in which the roofs were made of braided and pleached apple branches, with the apples blossoms hanging down and “perfuming the house.” The windows and doors were cut out with pruning saws.
The greenhouse complex at Starin Place had orange trees and fig trees and also housed Starin’s collection of rare ferns. The greenhouse complex featured a palm court that contained palm trees from George Washington’s Mt. Vernon, which Starin bought from Washington’s grandson at an auction in 1868 along with other Mt. Vernon memorabilia and artifacts.
The gardeners of Starin Place were a big part of this community. Fortroyal Foundation spent a lot of time in 2010 restoring a lot of what the gardeners created here at Starin Place as part of our preservation and conservation efforts.
-Karen Chaplin, Founder and Executive Director
Fortroyal Foundation, Inc.