Ladew Gardens photos depict grounds' beauty

Colorful flora and sculpted shrubbery are lasting legacy

Arts: museums, literature

April 08, 2004|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,SUN ART CRITIC

New York-born Harvey S. Ladew was a wealthy, cosmopolitan bon vivant and sporting gentleman whose greatest pleasures in life were gardening, traveling and riding to the hounds.

In 1929, Ladew purchased a 250-acre farm in rural Harford County, near the Elkridge-Harford Hunt Club in Monkton, where he delighted in racing his ponies and entertaining such renowned guests as Cole Porter, Lawrence of Arabia and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

Over the next decade, Ladew added several new wings to the original farmhouse and created a 22-acre garden devoted to cultivating the fantastically sculpted ornamental shrubs for which the Ladew Topiary Gardens are famous today.

Baltimore photographer Robert Noonan was bowled over the first time he saw Ladew's legacy of exquisite shrubberies trimmed in such fanciful shapes as swans, foxes, rabbits and horses (since Ladew's death in 1976, at age 89, the gardens have operated as a nonprofit corporation).

Noonan's fascination with the garden led him to return again and again to document its manicured landscapes and breathtaking vistas under all weather and lighting conditions.

Now some 20 of Noonan's spectacular color photographs of the gardens are on display in Ladew II, at Galerie Francoise in Lutherville through May 1 (an earlier selection of Noonan's garden photographs was exhibited at the gallery last year).

Noonan's expansively atmospheric pictures of the grounds and close-up views of its decorative flora are like a dream of some primordial Eden - a vision of nature not red in tooth and claw, but rather as an impossibly friendly realm of color and light populated by harmless creatures of exquisite, delicate fancy.

The gallery is at 2360 W. Joppa Road in Green Spring Station. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Call 410-337-2787.

For more arts events, see Page 36.

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