Goodwood’s gardens are unique because of our focus on early garden design and heirloom plants. In the 1990s, Goodwood was at the forefront of garden restoration with respect to our interest in protecting and preserving the heirloom quality of presentation of the grounds and gardens. We feel it is vital to preserve these “old” varieties of plants. They have charm and beauty, have proven to be resistant to insects and diseases, need little care, and are appropriate to historic Goodwood.
Goodwood’s garden history began in the 1830s. Bryan Croom was living on his Rocky Comfort plantation in Gadsden County and his brother Hardy was growing cotton on land next to him. Hardy spent much of the fall, winter, and spring in Florida and by 1834 was living along the western edge of Lake Lafayette using that name to refer to the plantation later named Goodwood. Hardy Croom, gentleman planter and first owner of Goodwood, gave us a wonderful botanical background for the property. His interest in horticulture was extensive and he traveled throughout the southeast observing, collecting, and identifying plant material.
His discovery of the Torreya taxifolia (Torreya Tree) was the first evidence of the species in the United States. His friend and fellow botanist Dr. John Torrey named another of Croom’s discoveries, Sarracenia Drummondii Croom (Pitcher Plant), in his honor. Croom’s description of a Florida hammock published in the Farmers’ Register, June 1834, demonstrates his interest and affection for his Goodwood home.
He wrote “. . . the stately Magnolia Grandiflora, accompanied by its relative the fragrant Magnolia Auriculata [Magnolia Fraseri], the Red-bud and the Beech, the elegant Stuartia, the showy Hydrangea, and the gay Azalea. These are often entwined about their trunks by these elegant creepers, the Carolina Jessamine, the Coral Honeysuckle, the Decumaria Sarmentosa [___]), the luxuriant Cissus [Marine Ivy], and the splendid Bignonias [Cross Vine], while the Tillandsia Resneoides [an air plant], festoons their branches: Such is a Florida hammock--the pride of Flora and the paradise of botanists.” With Hardy Croom as our patriarch, the gardens at Goodwood have an impressive family tree!
Although the Goodwood gardens owe their existence to both Hardy and Bryan Croom, it was Hardy’s interest in botany and understanding of soils and climates that led him to select Goodwood for its interesting botanical diversity and its potential as a profitable agricultural enterprise. It was he who began amassing the land, moving slaves onto the property, and producing cotton and corn. Hardy’s sudden death placed his brother, Bryan, in charge of Goodwood, and although Bryan did not seem to share his brother’s interest in botany, it is evident that he was every bit as successful at farming, having managed his own large plantation in Gadsden County for nearly 10 years.
Bryan’s contribution to Goodwood was sizeable; under his guidance, the Main House was completed in the mid-1840s and the 2,400 acre plantation took its place among the agricultural giants of Leon County. Bryan established a level of presentation and hospitality that reflected the prominence of the Croom family, the grandeur of the house, and the size of the plantation in the 1840s and 1850s. During this time, Goodwood provided for and maintained 250 people within its 8,000 acres, and this agricultural stability under Bryan Croom gave Goodwood its roots, its sense of life on a grand scale and much of its early prestige. We have no records of the Goodwood gardens during those antebellum years, but we do try to remember this agricultural background, family hospitality and cultural presentation as we re-create the gardens today.
Arvah Hopkins (Goodwood’s owner from 1858--1885) did not initially share the intense interest in botany or agriculture that Hardy or Bryan Croom had. Arvah was a merchant when he moved his family to Goodwood, and during his ownership increased the plantation’s holdings as well as its profits (pre-Civil War). The agriculture census reports during the Hopkins’ years show an increase in farm equipment with less reliance on livestock (except for mules and cattle) and a shift in crops. The amount of Indian corn and cotton grown dropped while sweet potatoes increased, and peas, beans, hay, butter, and wine were also produced. Although the plantation would never again be as large as it had been during the Croom era, it did continue to prosper financially, utilizing more agricultural equipment and growing a wide range of crops.
The first written description of the Goodwood Gardens is dated 1880 and comes from travel author George Barbour:
“This residence is well worth visiting because it affords a striking evidence of how elegantly the old-time planters enjoyed life . . . It comprises numerous buildings ranged around a large square in the rear used for laundry, cook-house, milk house, saddle and harness house, etc.; and the spacious surroundings and grounds are laid out in park-like style.”
This description gives insight into the ambiance of the garden and a hint of its design. It also lets us know that the quadrangle behind the main house (a basketball court during the Tiers’ and Hodges’ years) owes its design elements to the working plantation era. We wish we knew more!!
Goodwood went from a time of agricultural expansion and development to a time of decline during the Hopkins’ ownership before and after the Civil War. In doing so it began a transformation into a country estate, beginning with its ownership by Dr. William Lamb Arrowsmith and his wife, Elizabeth Harris Arrowsmith, who purchased Goodwood in 1886. Dr. Arrowsmith died about eight months after moving to Goodwood, but Elizabeth remained for the next twenty-five years. She brought financial security, fine European and American furnishings, and modern conveniences (a bathroom and a cistern water supply that used charcoal filtration and aeration) to the property.
Our photographic documentation from this time indicates garden development as well. There was symmetry on a north/south axis with the front of the house including a brick “arrow” in the front lawn credited by subsequent owners to Mrs. Arrowsmith. We also see bed development for the first time. These beds formed terraces running parallel on both sides of the entrance and were edged in brick in a hound’s tooth pattern. Plant material in these beds changed over the next twenty-five years and is still under investigation as the garden restoration evolves.
It is during this time that our largest sagos (Cycas revoluta) were planted and the bed form for the gazing globe garden in the front lawn was established. This bed area, anchored by the sagos, had two symmetrical halves that swept out in semicircles planted with a variety of shrubs. It was also edged in a brick hound’s tooth pattern. The order, symmetry, hardscape features, and wide range of plant material that we prize today originated during the Arrowsmith years.
When Mrs. Arrowsmith offered Goodwood for sale in 1911, she described the house “set in a grove of live oaks and magnolias and is immediately surrounded by shrubbery and flowers. To the right of the veranda is a grapefruit tree of unusual size from which 700 of the fruit were gathered last year. The place contains 160 acres, including a piece of woodland of about 20 acres; a 30 acre pear orchard in bearing; several pecan and grapefruit trees. The farm is watered by numerous springs and the soil is fertile. This place is considered one of the handsomest in Leon County.” Mrs. Arrowsmith’s words show us just how significant Goodwood’s garden had become to the house and property.
The most significant period of Goodwood’s garden began with the purchase of the plantation by Mrs. Fanny Tiers in 1911. The gardens and buildings became a winter recreational retreat during her ownership (1911-1925). This shift from a family residence into a property designed to entertain and accommodate guests from November to March necessitated drastic changes. The pool, roller skating rink, the stables and carriage house, and tennis court were added for the pleasure of Mrs. Tiers and her friends. All of the existing structures were renovated and others added, such as Jubilee, Rough House and the Water Tower, to accommodate the needs of guests.
This renovation was completed in the Colonial Revival style, a new and very popular design being used in many country estates during the turn-of-the-century. The Colonial Revival style was carried throughout the property and gardens. Photographic documentation shows that the “hard features” that exist in the garden today (linear brick paths, walled terraces on three sides of the house, a formal raised croquet court in the rear, and terracing in the east lawn) were all created at this time. A strong aspect of this era of garden design was extensive use of fencing and trellises. Historic photographs of Goodwood show a wonderful gates and white paling fence fronting the plantation and trellises complimenting many of the cottage porches.
In keeping with the Colonial Revival garden design, Goodwood’s plantings follow a north/south axis from the house and reflect a balance and symmetry typical of the period. The gardens complimented Mrs. Tiers’ overall architectural design for Goodwood and were an integral part of the recreation and pleasure she provided her guests. The gardens at Goodwood did vary a bit from the Colonial Revival presentation typical of estates farther north in the type of plant material used. During the Tiers era, many plants that were considered unusual tropical and exotic plants were installed in the garden as well as plants more commonly grown farther north. Some of these plants were successfully introduced, others quickly succumbed to Tallahassee’s cold winter nights or hot summer days. Our restoration efforts seek to recreate the unity of purpose and design as it appeared at Goodwood in 1925 at the end of the Tiers ownership and the beginning of the Hodges years.
William C. Hodges was a man of many interests, not the least of which was horticulture. When he purchased Goodwood in 1925, he brought an accumulation of knowledge and passion to the grounds. He was particularly interested in Old Garden Roses, palms, and tropical ornamentals. He built a large greenhouse his first year at Goodwood and within six years had planted more than 600 roses (120 varieties). Photographs indicate his willingness to try a variety of specimen plants and his love for everything tropical and exotic. Sadly, many of Hodges’ plantings are known to us only in photographs. Some of his selections were not well suited to the Tallahassee climate and as he got busier with his professional pursuits the grounds began to suffer from lack of attention. Hodges did make an effort to record the garden as it existed in the mid-1920s both photographically and in his writings. Much of the garden restoration is based on his important legacy.
Margaret Wilson Hodges Hood came to Goodwood in 1925 with her first husband, Senator William C. Hodges when she was 26 years old and for the next 53 years she was mistress of the house and garden. Although she had no formal landscape or garden training, she loved Goodwood and its flowers. We know that Margaret contributed to areas of the estate, and generally refined its existing overall effect, but unlike Fanny Tiers or Senator Hodges, Margaret did not initiate wholesale improvements. It is possible that she had great influence over the west lawn and garden area where benches still sit. We do know she had the spider, or hurricane, lilies (Lycoris radiata) planted in the west lawn and she began the practice of not mowing the area so that their bloom and growth could be assured from year to year. She was very proud of the beautiful spring display produced here and in later years continued the color through the summer months with great numbers of hydrangeas.
Lilies of all kinds were favorite flowers. She created a lily bed near the Rough House Garden and grew “hybrid amaryllis” as she called them, throughout the property. As a caption on several pictures of Margaret and in framed needlepoint in the Goodwood collection, the biblical phrase “Consider the Lilies” serves as a testimony to Margaret’s love of these flowers. Margaret collected lily seeds and grew them in her beloved greenhouse along with such tropicals as bougainvillea. There is even reported to be an orchid named for Margaret called the “Maggie Hood.”
We know that Margaret used Goodwood’s camellias, azaleas, magnolias, gladiolas, hydrangeas, and wisteria in flower arrangements in all of the rooms at Goodwood. State dinners, May Party events, teas, and wedding receptions were all graced with elaborate sprays of flowers collected from the property. In her later years a particular yellow rose that grew on a lamppost at the back door of the Main House as well as on a trellis on the Gray Cottage was always present in a kitchen bouquet.
The east porch of the Main House was one of Margaret’s favorite places to spend time. Looking through the moss-covered oak limbs, she could view many of the garden azaleas, dogwoods, and camellias, as well as the walks, the pool and her lily bed near Rough House. She would not allow the moss to be removed from the trees (a common practice of the time) and considered it quite beautiful. In that act alone, we must credit Margaret Wilson Hodges Hood with understanding and preserving one of Goodwood’s greatest treasures.
As Margaret got older her interest in maintaining the gardens waned and her finances made paid maintenance impossible. Her second husband, Tom Hood, was not interested in the plantings. As Tom used to say, he didn’t own Goodwood, it owned him! His contributions to the grounds were simply to keep them mowed in an effort to keep the underbrush at bay.
By the time of Mr. Hood’s death in 1990, the grounds were severely deteriorated and it was only through the time, effort, and energy of a devoted group of volunteers and professional staff that the grounds have been returned to much of their former glory.