The Mount

The Walled Garden at The Mount in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

The Walled Garden at The Mount (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Edith Wharton was a woman ahead of her time.  Born into a society that expected women to aspire to nothing more than marriage, this self educated lady shattered that glass ceiling by becoming one of the most famous female authors of her time.  In 1921, at the age of 59, Edith was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize for her literary works; The Age of Innocence. Over the course of her life, Edith would have dozens of novels, poetry and short stories published.

The House viewed from The Garden in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

The House viewed from The Garden (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Born in 1862, Edith Newbold Jones led an adventurous life, travelling extensively throughout Europe by the age of four.  Her family settled in New York City in 1872, and vacationed in Newport, Rhode Island for the summer, where Edith was able to pursue her passion for writing.  Edith continued writing after her marriage (at age 23) to Edward Wharton, and her first poems were published by Scribner’s in 1889.  The Decoration of Houses, co-authored with architect Ogden Codman, was also published by Scribner’s a few years later, in 1897.  That book became the inspiration for her designs of The Mount, the home and gardens Edith created on 113 acres of land in Lenox, Massachusetts in 1902.

** Read on for other GREAT GARDENS to visit ~

Grass Steps leading to the Lime Walk in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Grass Steps leading to the Lime Walk (photo: Kathy Diemer)

With the technical support of two architects, Ogden Codman and Francis Hoppin, Edith Wharton’s home, The Mount, was built with the intention of creating an environment that would inspire her creatively as a designer, gardener and writer.  Taking on a project of such magnitude was considered ludicrous for a woman, yet she persevered not only in designing an artistically ornate home, but the extensively manicured gardens that complemented it as well. Edith’s well known niece, landscape designer Beatrix Ferrand, assisted with the creation of gardens that spanned several acres.

The Flower Garden at The Mount in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

The Flower Garden at The Mount (photo: Kathy Diemer)

The results of Edith’s passion as a gardener and designer are quite evident as you walk through the estate and surrounding property.  Inside, her eye for detail is easily recognized in the hand carved marble fireplaces (in every bedroom), the ornate trim on the walls and ceilings, even the marble baseboard moldings in her entryway. Outside, the theme most important to this wise New England resident was focusing on what she called “charm independent of the seasons“, in other words, seasonal interest.  Mrs. Wharton envisioned her three acres of gardens as a series of outdoor rooms designed to meld with the natural landscape, while looking beautiful during any time of the year.  What you won’t find here are masses of flower beds (only one flower garden), instead the emphasis is on a sculptured landscape open to distant views, groupings of various shrubs and neatly pruned evergreens.  As I enjoyed the view overlooking the formal gardens, the sounds of hawks circling overhead in the crisp blue sky indicated they were enjoying it too.

** The Berkshire Botanical Garden is only minutes from The Mount ~

Toto's Tombstone in The Mount's Pet Cemetery in A Garden for All by Kathy Diemer

Toto’s Tombstone in The Mount’s Pet Cemetery (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Although there are casual winding pathways along the side of the house, all lined with shrubs and trees, including a path that leads to a pet cemetery (with a tombstone for ToTo-surely not Dorothy’s), around the rear of the house the style becomes much more regimented with a straight walkway (Lime Walk) lined with neatly manicured deciduous trees that leads to the Walled Garden at one end and the Flower Garden at the other, each with a fountain at the center.  The fountain in the walled garden is made from a pile of stones, while the fountain in the flower garden is more formal.

The Walled Garden's "Rockpile Fountain" (photo: Kathy Diemer)

The Walled Garden’s rockpile fountain (photo: Kathy Diemer)

Millions have since been invested in the preservation of The Mount’s estate and gardens, including restoration of the hardscape and replacement of thousands of trees, shrubs and plants.  Great effort was put into recreating her flower garden, restoring the walled garden and fountain, and completing a rock garden with rare grass steps.  Attention to detail was utilized when incorporating some of Edith’s favorite flowering shrubs and native ferns in the designs.  It was very inspiring to discover that The Mount practices environmentally conscious procedures, using only organic products in the gardens.  Finally, The Mount is the only U.S. monument to Edith Wharton and is one of only 5% of National Historic Landmarks dedicated to women.

To read more about Edith’s fascinating life, her books and her home, visit:


  1. What a majestic place! The 1st thing I noticed is there are no flowers…. but what an interesting story!

    • I would have loved to see how they created the landscape-as it is structurally tiered from the house on the hill down to the lower gardens. Like carving on a giant scale . . .

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A Garden for All