From the stunning roses set at its majestic entrance to the hallways, rooms and vignettes bursting with countless elegantly elaborate floral displays inside, Lyndhurst’s garden legacy came to vivid life during “Spring Blossoms.”
The third annual flower show filled the Tarrytown mansion with heady scents and memorable scenes while also cultivating a renewed interest in the sprawling property’s gardens and their history.
Held the first weekend of April as the season-opening event for Lyndhurst, the show kicked off with a party hosted by the Garden Club of Irvington, with proceeds to benefit the restoration of the historic fountains and perennials in the Lyndhurst Rose Garden.
“Spring Blossoms,” the creation of floral designers and Lyndhurst supporters Ned Kelly of Ned Kelly & Co. in Piermont and Gerald Palumbo and Miko Akasaka of Seasons On The Hudson in Irvington and Manhattan, drew on the talents of a dozen area floral designers who used the historic site as inspiration. Their goal — so beautifully accomplished — was to recreate the atmosphere of the mansion’s heyday, when its well-appointed rooms would be filled with arrangements created with flowers gathered from the estate’s gardens and greenhouse.
WAG took an informal tour of the show, led by Maura Bekelja, Lyndhurst’s marketing and digital communications coordinator.
“Spring Blossoms,” she explained, was about “bringing back the Gilded Age feeling without overwhelming the architecture.”
Alexander Jackson Davis designed Lyndhurst, one of the nation’s iconic Gothic Revival mansions, in 1838. Today, its historic tours trace the ownership, from former New York City Mayor William Paulding to merchant George Merritt through the Gould family. Lyndhurst was purchased by railroad magnate Jay Gould in 1880 and remained under his family’s ownership into the 1960s when it became a site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The flower show turned the main floor into a study in splendor, the rose-filled vestibule by Ned Kelly & Co. yielding to the lush Seasons On The Hudson entry hall, with other highlights including a stunning table with a floral arch set by Joseph Richard Florals of Armonk in the parlor/drawing room echoed at the opposite end of the floor by a tour-de-force dining room scene created by Diana Gould Ltd. of Elmsford.
Upstairs, with the art gallery and family bedrooms, the mood was more subdued.
Simple silver trays filled with white roses by Arcadia Floral in Mamaroneck and Oradell, New Jersey, for example, stood at the foot of the bed in the State Bedroom beneath a Tiffany window, while a single orchid held court on a windowsill in the bath, a room done by Lou Zapata for the Garden Club of Irvington.
“Up here, the goal was to keep it how the family would have enjoyed it,” Bekelja said, noting fresh flower arrangements would have been changed every two to three days during the Goulds’ residence.
Garnering much attention back on the main floor was a rare — and recently discovered — 1942 color film that adds much-needed detail to the ongoing restoration of the grounds.
Howard Zar, executive director of Lyndhurst, shared its significance.
“We had a lot of maps and photos of the grounds, and they were all black and white,” he said. Now, there is clear direction for the historic garden restoration projects. “It’s a very intense color palette.”
Once the lower landscape project is completed, he added, the remainder of the grounds will be the focus, with this film offering new details and insights.
Events such as the flower show, Zar said, turn the spotlight on Lyndhurst’s rich garden history, with the Goulds known for their gardens and their being up on all the latest in the field.
“People forget the greenhouse on this property was the largest private greenhouse in the world,” Zar said.
He added that while the restoration projects will benefit all who visit, they will have the biggest effect on the most-frequent visitors.
“What all of this is done for is our local and regional audience,” Zar said. “This is essentially the Central Park of Westchester.”
It’s the locals, he said, who make up the bulk of Lyndhurst visitors, from the joggers who use its grounds for exercise to those who frequently attend concerts, workshops and exhibitions. To note, a major exhibition of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany, “Becoming Tiffany: From Hudson Valley Painter to Gilded Age Tastemaker,” will open June 1.
And on the evening of the flower-show preview, a steady stream of visitors kicked off the Lyndhurst season in style — first encountering the work of Ned Kelly & Co.
Kelly had turned to perhaps the most iconic flower — the rose — to create a welcome that was taking visitors’ breaths away.
“We’re working on a project to restore the rose garden, and this is how I chose this theme,” Kelly said, noting he “tried to respond to the space.”
He made sure the front doors were open so, “people would see how it was to enter this home, just step out of your carriage.”
That sense of history was palpable in his space, one as elegant, with a café table vignette, as it was playful, with porcelain monkey figurines clutching single red roses.
The flower show, he said, has found its audience — and continues to expand each year.
“It’s meant to be a whole weekend of celebrating gardens, home, flowers, gracious living — but a focus on beautiful floral design.”
With a glance around what he created, Kelly took a moment to reflect on “Spring Blossoms,” not just as an event but also as something broader.
“We need this right now. We need to remember our souls are fed by beauty.”