Flowers Meet Architecture at Hollister House Garden
By Clementina Verge
Tucked away in picturesque Washington awaits an enchanting, not-so-secret garden where visitors can delight in summer snowflakes and listen for the flutter of bluebells. The Hollister House Garden—recognized on the National Register of Historic Places—offers experiences as unique as those who wander through it.
“Some people come just for the beauty of flowers, while others take an interest in artistry and architecture,” notes owner George Schoellkopf, who has gifted the property to Hollister House Garden Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to its preservation. “For others, it takes on a profoundly moving spiritual dimension and for children it proves to be a great adventure as they are enticed from space to space.”
Last year, Hollister also proved a therapeutic antidote for thousands who sought serenity during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The botanical dreamscape sprouted some 42 years ago when Schoellkopf—then an antiques dealer in New York City—found his weekend retreat on Nettleton Hollow Road and decided to recreate magnificent gardens like Sissinghurst and Hidcote, which captured his heart during travels through England.
Trees, perennials, dramatic hedges, calming water features, stone walls, and passageways were born out of clay models and today, the sprawling estate’s landscape maturity is among its most charming attributes. Typical of English gardens, Hollister incorporates a formal design, but plantings are informal—even wild, because Schoellkopf desires an architecturally-pleasing space that is dignified yet unpretentious; a natural extension of the New England countryside.
The 18th century house (not open to visitors), which Schoellkopf describes as a “wonderful jumble of various periods that all work together,” is always in the background but never a focal point. Instead, the garden unfolds in layers, drawing visitors into multiple “rooms,” each revealing hidden treasures. Strolling through forget-me-nots spilling onto the stone pathways of the Grey Garden, reflecting in the Wall Garden, and admiring the Kitchen Garden’s elegant symmetry complement the bucolic views of the pastoral hillside.
There is no “best time” to visit since each month offers distinctive delights. Schoellkopf insists that his favorite flower “is the one in bloom,” but admits to a special fondness of daffodils. Expect to find those blooming in early season, followed by bursts of peonies, lilacs, dahlias, lilies, poppies, irises, primrose, asters, and evergreen climbing ivy—representing just some of the synthesis of diverse fragrances and colors that create mystery, drama, and tranquility.
Care has been taken to foster a lush landscape that blossoms continuously, which has meant a decades-long adventure in mastering plant acclimation and compatibility.
“Gardens are special because they allow us to experience nature in a manmade, artistic way,” explains Schoellkopf, expressing great pleasure at being able to share the property with others.
This spring, Hollister House is poised to welcome visitors with a lineup of lectures and workshops appealing to a wide array of interests, including book conversations, art sessions extending from plein air painting to smartphone photography, and discussions ranging from successful floral combinations to artist talks.
300 Nettleton Hollow Rd