Karen Mazza was the Head Gardener from July 31, 1987 to March 17, 2003. She recalls signing one’s name to the Garden Shed wall as being part of the ritual of being a gardener at Oatlands. She included with her start and stop dates a quote – A Moment in Time – believed to be from Gertrude Jekyll, an influential British garden designer and proponent of using color and plants of all varieties in a garden.
She started her gardening career at a time when most professional gardeners were men. She was grateful for the opportunity to lead the program at Oatlands and expand it to include more female Master Gardeners. She often thought of a story she had read about Mrs. Edith Eustis and her love of the garden. As the story goes, a garden club had come in the early 1900s to interview Mrs. Eustis and they found her out in the garden wearing pants and pushing a lawn mower! She enjoyed her garden so much that she wasn’t afraid to wear pants – practically unheard of during that time period – and do manual labor when she had a full garden staff to do the work.
One of Karen’s favorite memories was a novel way to cool off in the summer. Virginia’s hot and humid weather can be oppressive. On some of the hottest days of the summer, Karen and her garden team would remove their shoes, get into the reflecting pool, and trim the ivy around the border!
Because gardeners push wheel barrows or haul equipment, they typically move around the gardens differently than guests who follow the formal paths. Gardeners usually approach the Tea House via the “back way” – past the English Oak and down the terraces to the narrow dirt path leading to the Tea House. Karen remembers how beautiful the Tea House and Mixed Border would look in the morning as she started out for the day on this “back way” to the lower gardens. Gentle morning light would stream through the Tea House and look golden on the Mixed Border. Karen remembers the beautiful setting and the optimism of the morning as the new day stretched before her.
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