My research on the Morven gardens focuses on the formal garden and cutting garden, designed by Annette Hoyt Flanders in 1930. Because designers, theorists, historians, gardeners, etc might all use these terms differently, I would like to explain how I am using these terms in this project.
As a student of Elizabeth Meyer, I am well aware that the term “formal” can be problematic in describing landscape. Traditionally, “formal garden” has been used to describe gardens that are designed using Euclidean geometries: axes, arcs, etc. This becomes problematic in that it implies that other gardens are “informal” – lacking any order whatsoever. This often isn’t true – gardens might be organized around another principle aside from geometry, such as horticulture, hydrology, geology, etc.
In this case, I will be using the term Formal Garden because it is the term used by Annette Hoyt Flanders, and in use by the Morven staff today. In using this term, I am not implying that all other gardens at Morven lack form and are orderless masses of plants. Instead, I think that we might describe this garden as “formal” in social terms: while other gardens at Morven fulfill utilitarian, recreational, or meditative functions, this garden would have been used for formal social entertainment.
The cutting garden is a more utilitarian space: its main purpose is to provide bouquets for the house without sacrificing the appearance of the Formal Garden. In the Annette Hoyt Flanders plan, beds of strawberries and vegetables would have occupied the center of this space.
While this space was primarily created as a source for flowers and vegetables, its design and appearance were clearly still important. The flowers are not planted in rows, but instead arranged in beds that frame the space. The shape of these beds and the grading plan serve to elongate the space. While this wouldn’t have been a primary formal social space, it was still designed by a landscape architect and made presentable to the public.