Greenwood Gardens

16 May 2023

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Home Notes from the Garden

A Timelessly Elegant Garden Feature

A Timelessly Elegant Garden Feature

Sundials are not just markers of time, but a symbol of the fleeting nature of existence. In the world of garden design, sundials have been an integral feature, serving a more practical purpose before the advent of mechanical clocks. In fact, they were a necessity, as vital as the garden itself, and often custom-made to ensure accuracy.

Nestled within Greenwood’s stunning landscape is a polyhedral astrological sundial. It stands along the pathway that connects the Summerhouse and the Teahouse, perched on a spiral pedestal. With ten hemispherical sundials, this stunning feature is crowned with a lion and shield and was once in situ at Adelaide Childs Frick Blanchard’s childhood home on Long Island, Clayton. That it indicates the current astrological sign is perhaps more understandable when one considers its original location, at the terminus of the Zodiac Garden at Clayton.

During the Renaissance period in the 16th and 17th centuries, polyhedral sundials became popular amongst astronomers. They were not just time-keeping instruments, but a showcase of the mathematical and engineering expertise of the instrument makers who designed them. Possessing a polyhedral sundial was a matter of prestige, indicating the owner’s keen interest in and appreciation of science and mathematics.

Although no longer accurate due to its shaded location, Greenwood’s sundial remains a testimony to the relationship between the sun, the earth, and the fleeting nature of time and serves as a powerful connection to Greenwood’s past.

Astrological sundial at the terminus of the Zodiac Garden at Clayton, 1931 (from Ninth Annual Exhibition New York Chapter ASLA, 1932)