Design · Gardening · Inspiration

Bunny Mellon’s Gardens

Yesterday, I finished reading Meryl Gordon’s Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend.  The biography covers the extraordinarily privileged life of the American heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, who died at the age of 103 in 2014.  Although she is known for her extensive art collection, her stylish fashions, and beautifully decorated homes, she seemed most interested in horticulture.  Mellon always gardened, even as a young girl, and was intensely interested in botany.  Although she had no formal training in horticulture, throughout her long life she cultivated many beautiful gardens; most notably, she redesigned the Rose Garden at the White House at President Kennedy’s request (she was a close friend of Mrs. Kennedy).  She also designed extensive gardens at her many homes and assembled an extensive collection of rare horticulture books.

Today’s post provides a look at some of the lovely gardens that Mellon designed.

The White House Rose Garden as it appeared upon completion of its redesign by Bunny Mellon in 1962:

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 12.54.50 PM.png
The Washington Post

The Bunny Mellon-designed Rose Garden’s style is formal and French-inspired, with a central lawn bordered by flower beds.  Mellon included American crabapple trees, little-leaf linden trees, and thyme hedges.  Although roses are the most prevalent flower in the garden, many other varieties of flowers were included, so there is color throughout the the year from season to season.

Young John Kennedy, Jr. in the garden in the spring of 1963:

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The Washington Post

Mrs. Kennedy also asked Mellon to design an East Garden at the White House, which she completed in 1965 and is named the Jaqueline Kennedy Garden:

via Pinterest

Mellon’s most extensive personal gardens were at Oak Springs Farm, her 4,000 acre estate in Upperville, Virginia, and reflect the French-inspired style that she favored.

Oak Springs Farm:

via Pinterest
via Garden and Gun

Beautiful farmland on Bunny Mellon’s Oak Springs Farm estate:

via Architectural Digest

The vegetable gardens:

via Vanity Fair
via Garden and Gun
via Garden and Gun

A pergola of crabapple trees that leads to a greenhouse:

via Garden and Gun


via Architectural Digest

A garden path:

via Garden and Gun


Bunny Mellon in the 1980s at Oak Springs Farm, tending her many topiaries in a greenhouse:

via Architectural Digest

In one of her greenhouses, Mellon had artist Fernard Renard paint trompe l’oeil murals:

via Architectural Digest
via Architectural Digest


The Mellon biography quotes her as saying, when describing her vision for Oak Springs Farm, “Nothing should stand out. It all should give the feeling of calm. When you go away, you should remember only the peace.”

What a lovely thought. I think Mellon succeeded in achieving her vision, don’t you?



8 thoughts on “Bunny Mellon’s Gardens

  1. These were SO beautiful. It makes it even better to know that she herself liked to garden. That part of Virginia is lovely, too. I wonder if the estate is still intact & resisting developers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. After Mellon died, the estate was listed for sale for 70 million in 2014. After a year it didn’t sell and I believe it was divided into 10 or 12 parcels that were sold individually. Her library, greenhouse, and some gardens are preserved and part of the Oak Spring Garden Foundation. Although it isn’t open to the public I believe that arrangements can be made to visit. More information about the foundation can be found at:


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