Walled Garden Thrives After Rejuvenation But Could Use A Cleanup

Posted: January 23, 2000

Until five years ago, the walled garden at Gwynedd-Mercy College in Gwynedd Valley was overgrown and neglected. Today, it is starting to blossom into the beauty it enjoyed in the early 1900s as part of a large estate.

The thanks go to Gwynedd-Mercy College archivist Eleanor King of Philadelphia, who contacted the Swedesford Garden Club and Master Gardeners of Montgomery County about getting the garden back in shape.

"In 1995, the Swedesford Garden Club did a spring cleanup for Earth Day," King said. "Then, in January 1996, five or six master gardeners came in here and plotted [the garden] out."

Under the guidance of Swedesford's Mia Dorazio of Gwynedd Valley, the 33-member Swedesford group, Bloodgood Landscape Corp., college personnel, alumni and others have since spent hundreds of hours weeding, pruning, mulching, planting, and clearing the area of overgrown trees and brush.

The Lady Garden, named for the Virgin Mary statue within, is a plot of about one-third acre formed into a large square with two long wings on either side. A 5-foot-tall brick wall surrounds the garden, and there is an extravagant wrought-iron gate at its entrance across from the college's Assumption Hall.

The 94-year-old hall, a Georgian Revival mansion, was designed by renowned Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer and built for Margaret and Francis Bond as Willowbrook Farm. The architect also designed the formal garden and outbuildings.

"The real James Bond lived here for a time as a child," King said about the Bonds' son, who was a noted ornithologist and wrote a guidebook about birds in the West Indies.

When birdwatcher and author Ian Fleming was looking for a name for his newly created 007 character, he glanced at the guide and promptly named the suave English spymaster James Bond for the book Casino Royale.

"I was looking for a name for my hero - nothing like Peregrine Carruthers or 'Standfast' Maltravers - and I found it on the cover of Birds of the West Indies by James Bond," wrote Fleming in the book Ian Fleming Introduces Jamaica.

Roland Taylor and his wife, Anita, bought the home in 1914, renaming it Treweryn. Taylor, a banker and gardening enthusiast, planted many ornamental trees and shrubs, including dogwoods and 53 varieties of rhododendron.

The Taylor children sold it to the Sisters of Mercy in 1947, and Gwynedd-Mercy Junior College opened the next year. "In 1950, the first graduating class was supposed to be in the garden, but it got rained out," King said.

The garden has a central fountain, which has been converted into a planter. "Eventually, I'd like to see the fountain redone," said Mia Dorazio, "but the piping and maintenance is so expensive."

The Swedesford club was founded in 1977, and its members come from North Wales borough and Upper and Lower Gwynedd townships. Its president is Elaine Watters of Lansdale. The group holds plant sales for North Wales Day in May and Lansdale Day in June.

Members donate plantings from their gardens for the Lady Garden.

Dorazio, who got her love of gardening from her mother and grandmother, has enjoyed watching the garden evolve. "It was in really bad shape, in desperate need of repair. There were weeds and overgrown bushes," she said. "This is just in its infancy, but we've come a long way."

Volunteers are needed from 9 a.m. to noon April 15 for a cleanup of the Lady Garden. To sign up, call Eleanor King at 215-641-5587.

Neighbors welcomes news of your social events. Include a name and phone number, and mail information to Pauline Bogaert, "Gatherings," Philadelphia Inquirer, 800 River Road, Conshohocken, Pa. 19428. Send e-mail to: pauline.bogaert@phillynews.com

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