With its gracious “cottage”, magnificent gardens, and panoramic views, Naumkeag is a quintessential country estate located in the picturesque southern hills of the Berkshires. This lavish estate was the summer family home of Joseph Choate, a leading 19th-century attorney. The stunning gardens were created by Joseph Choates’s daughter, Mabel Choate during a 30-year collaboration with famed landscape architect Fletcher Steele.
This Step Back in Time includes a glimpse – through the eyes of one family – into a brief and now-vanished period of American history.
This guided tour will visit the magnificent gardens for which Naumkeag is now known, including the world-famous Blue Steps, the equally beautiful Afternoon Garden, Tree Peony Terrace, Rose Garden, Evergreen Garden, and Chinese Garden to encounter the playful, inventive spirit of the Choate and Steele collaboration.
In 2013, an ambitious multi-year, multi-million dollar restoration project was begun for the gardens at this National Historic Landmark. After several years of work, informed by meticulous records kept by Flether Steel, the gardens, grounds, and infrastructure have been returned to their original grandeur.
The Trustees of Reservations have a long history of historic preservation and ecological conservation: protecting landscapes and identifying and caring for the land’s unique historic and natural resources. When undertaking the management of Naumkeag, plenty of challenges were present, many of which had been introduced to the gardens by Mabel Choate and Fletcher Steele.
During the era that they developed Naumkeag, there was little understanding about the damage to ecosystems caused by aggressive plant selections. Over the course of the past several decades of management, the Trustees have identified seven invasive species at Naumkeag that were deliberately introduced and an additional eight that were self-sown naturally.
This tour will include a discussion of the ecological practices at Naumkeag and will touch upon the controversial decision to maintain the Japanese Knotweed. The plant was originally introduced for erosion control, seasonal color, and the dramatic appeal of a large block of the single plant to emphasize the curve of the steep bank around the specimen oak tree.
Registration for this garden tour includes an optional self-guided tour through the house.