About the Star Garden

When Beatrix Farrand drew the first designs for the Star Garden in the 1920s, she merged it with the larger Green Garden terrace to the east. However, by the 1930s, the Star Garden gained a distinct identity and a screen of plantings that granted it a sense of enclosure and privacy. Robert and Mildred Bliss used the Star Garden as an outdoor dining area for small, intimate groups, and they infused its design with details that reflected the personal nature of the space. The focus of this garden area is on ornament, rather than plant material.

The Star Garden, or Zodiac Court as it was sometimes called, gained its name from the astrological motifs Mildred Bliss chose to highlight in the garden ornaments and inscriptions. The garden space is defined by hedges of white Rhododendron mucronatum (Azalea indica alba) on the east and north. The house borders on the south, and a low stone wall encloses the west. The western wall features a fountain embellished with a lead design of Aquarius. Water pours from the Aquarius figure into a yellow marble basin, which is matched with a yellow marble table on the opposite side of the garden room.

The zodiac theme carries throughout the other elements of the Star Garden. Farrand created an iron-framed table and chairs with intricate designs set into the backs, featuring representations of the constellations, Orion, Cepheus, and Boötes. Lead patterns set into the paving depict Aries, Capricorn, Pegasus, and the Phoenix. These constellations surround the paving design of a star within a corona, all encircled by an excerpt from Chaucer. The quote is set in stylized lead letters, reading “O thou maker of the whele that bereth the sterres and tornest the hevene with a ravishing sweigh.” Beatrix Farrand and Mildred Bliss worked together to choose and abridge this quotation from the opening line of Metre V, Book I of Chaucer’s translation of Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy.

Minor changes have come and gone in the Star Garden over time. The Orion, Cepheus, and Boötes chairs appeared at the Terrior Column for a while in the 1930s, and the azaleas were replaced in the 1940s. Despite some deterioration of the inset lead designs, the current Star Garden appears much the way Farrand described it in the Plant Book, with all original furnishings and azalea hedges.