by Jenevieve Hughes | June 13, 2014
After what has been, by most accounts, a long winter and all too swift spring, it’s hard to believe that we’re now on the cusp of summer. But the summer solstice is indeed fast upon us, and soon, the northern hemisphere will be tilted at its most precipitous angle towards the sun, bringing us the longest hours of daylight we’ll have all year.
Some ancient cultures honored this solstice on Midsummer’s Eve, the shortest night of the year, in a celebration that anticipated a fruitful harvest and marked the halfway point through the balmiest of seasons. Although our calendar considers the solstice to be the official start of summer, we need only glance at the profusion of luscious blooms in gardens across Connecticut to understand why the ancients saw the solstice as a mid-season high.
The early weeks of summer always seem to call forth a vibrant bursting of energy, when the fresh newness of spring gives way to a voracious synthesis of sunlight. Plants stretch towards the sky, and children are released from school to bask in the possibilities of freedom. Young and old alike recall favorite memories of summers past.
Then followed that beautiful season…
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light
And the landscape lay as if new created
In all the freshness of childhood.
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
If you love the revelry that inevitably accompanies the start of summer, then gather your family and friends on Sunday, June 22 (the day after the solstice) for a splash of floral color and an afternoon of festivities at Connecticut’s fourteen historic gardens. From strawberry shortcake and rhubarb iced tea to plein air painting and croquet, you’ll find something for everyone at these timeless gardens adjacent to some of the most beloved historic house museums.
There is something about walking in the garden footpaths of the past that colors the present most vividly. Whether you’re exploring the vintage grandeur of the grounds at Harkness Memorial Park, once the site of an exclusive coastal summer estate, or enjoying the understated charm of an early Republic-era herb garden at the Thankful Arnold House, each of these fourteen gardens will find a way to inspire and delight you. Collectively, they offer a depth and breadth of historical experience that Connecticut is simply so lucky to call its own.
From a hidden garden tucked in a rural hillside nicknamed the “Land of Nod,” where a renowned Impressionist painter once found inspiration (Weir Farm), to the lush floral splendor at a riverfront art colony where other members of Connecticut’s Impressionist coterie did the same (Florence Griswold Museum), these sites offer sun-ripened spaces in which to relax and revel in the multi-faceted garden heritage of our state.
As the Earth tilts its northern latitudes towards the sun, lean into the warmth of summer and experience all the wonderful beauty to be found in Connecticut’s historic gardens. Each has its own story, and on June 22nd there will be plenty of volunteers on hand at each site to share these stories with you. Let go of your cares by spending an afternoon in a garden, and connect with Connecticut’s rich cultural past as you walk amidst the “dreamy and magical light” of summer.
Editorial note: Several gardens are within a short drive of each other, so you can visit more than one for CT Historic Gardens Day. Activities will vary at each site, so be sure to check event details on the individual site pages. And after your visit, please share your thoughts and experiences with us by posting a comment here on this blog!