United States of America, Pennsylvania, Allegheny County, Sewickley
Poplar Hill (Sewickley, Pennsylvania)
Poplar Hill is a six-acre property with simplified plantings that accommodate a busy professional lifestyle in a deer-prone area, and renovations that have brought back design features from earlier gardens. The property is entered through a long curving drive under mature trees that leads to the colonial revival house with Georgian features built in the 1950s. The upper garden to the west of the house, measuring about 40 by 56 feet and oriented east to west is planted in turf grass bordered by shaped evergreen shrubs with gravel paths. Green lattice panels supported by tall brick piers enclose the upper garden. A broad flagstone swath with two steps leads to the lower garden, a 70 by 136 feet rectangle with rounded ends that is oriented north to south. A five-foot tall brick wall surrounds the lower garden with a summer house built into the wall that has white Tuscan columns reiterating those on the house. Inside the wall there is an informally planted double border of perennials, ornamental grasses and shrubs bisected by a gravel path; the rest of the lower garden is turf grass. Asian stone statues have been placed in the niches at each end of the lower garden and other statues and an antique English wellhead dot the property.
Modern additions to the garden's design include a brick patio, formal side garden and greenhouse southeast of the house. Two argyle parterres of deer resistant boxwood and barberry were planted at the main entrance to the house. A fenced cutting and vegetable garden was placed near where one existed in the past. A horseshoe-shaped yew hedge believed to be from the original landscape design was refurbished with mature shrubs where there were gaps. At one time a reflecting pool bordered in ivy and daphne was a feature in the garden; it was grassed over long ago but the current owners had stones placed outlining the old pool's shape. There are no poplar trees remaining at Poplar Hill and no plans to replant any.
The first house on the 41 acre property known as Poplar Hill was a colonial revival mansion with 35 rooms overlooking the Allegheny Country Club. The first landscape designer of the gardens was Arthur Shurtleff (Shurcliff) but no records or drawings of his design have been located. In the 1930s Poplar Hill had formal gardens with parterre beds of brightly colored bulbs and annuals, an enclosed rose garden, and a border containing one hundred named varieties of iris. The property was subdivided into parcels and most features of the earlier gardens were destroyed.
Persons associated with the garden include Martha Fleming Byers (former owner, 1904-1913); John Denniston Lyon and Maude Byers Lyon (former owners, 1913-1930); Reverend Dr. Maitland Alexander (former owner, 1931-1940); Madelaine Francis Laughlin Alexander (former owner, 1931-1952); William R. Jackson and Lucilla Scribner Jackson (former owners, 1952-1984); Walter E. Gregg, Jr. (former owner, 1984-1991); Mr. Wilson Wyatt (former owner, 1991-1993); Philip Hiss and H. Hobart Weeks (architects of original house, no longer standing, 1904); Arthur Asahel Shurtleff (later Shurcliff), ASLA (likely landscape architect of original garden, 1914); E. Burnet (landscape designer, dates unknown); Frederick DePeyster Townsend and Bryant Fleming (landscape architects, dates unknown); John Nelson Franklin and Herbert C. Douden & Associates (architects of current house, 1953); Jöel C. LeGall, ASLA (landscape consultant, 1994-present); Kutchko Nursery, Inc. (gardeners, 2005-present).
The folder includes worksheets, photocopies of articles, photocopies of historic photographs, and histories of the property and architecture.
This property is featured in "Garden Featured on Upcoming Tour to be Catalogued at Smithsonian" and "Sewickley Tour Offers Glimpse at Early 1900s Garden" by Joanne Braun, Sewickley Herald, June 10, 2010 and June 17, 2010; Description of Mrs. Maitland Alexander's "Poplar Hill" garden, in the program for The Garden Club of America Annual Meeting, May 11, 12, 13, 14, 1948 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and photocopy of "The Index" article featuring Mr. and Mrs. J. Denniston Lyon's garden, July 1926, University of Pittsburgh Archives; "Poplar Hill" slide series, Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie Mellon University