June 16, 2016

The Tivoli Tea House at Ladew Gardens

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know that one of my favourite places is Ladew Gardens, a spectacular topiary garden about 20 miles north of Baltimore. I generally get up there several times a year, usually once a season. IMG_1347
I headed up there this week for the opening of the Tivoli Teahouse. There’s a funny history behind this little space. It used to be, or was modeled on the ticket office at the Tivoli Theatre in the Strand in London. image
It sits at the far end of the gardens, secluded in its own little world. It was a place where Ladew’s owner, bon vivant Harvey Ladew could take some time to himself, away from his numerous and constant guests. He could sit in an easy chair in front of the fireplace and make notes to himself about what he’d noticed in the garden. And because he was Harvey, there was a secret bar for tête–à–tête cocktails!
I decided to walk down to the tea house via the garden paths, rather than through the big bowl. IMG_1335
Many of the gardens are planted according to colour or variety, so I started out in the pink garden, IMG_1423
headed through the rose garden, IMG_1351
stopped to chat with a frog, IMG_1349
checked on the bees, IMG_1375
watched the late afternoon sun in the yellow garden, IMG_1371x
and finally spotted the cocktail tent. IMG_1357
Ladew was serving some of the 1950’s food that they found in some of Harvey’s cookbooks, and the cocktails were from the same era. One of the best hors d’oeuvres was a butter cracker, some parmesan cheese on top and a piece of bacon wrapped around it and baked. YUM! The cocktails were served in glasses with a fun pink elephant copied from those that they had found in the secret bar. IMG_1427
The flowers on the tables all came from the gardens, and since Ladew is north of Baltimore and on a windy hill, they’re about a week later in flowering than in the city. IMG_1362
I LOVE pink peonies!IMG_1385
After a few words and some of the history of the Tivoli Teahouse, it was opened!IMG_1364
Harvey had a great and sly sense of humour and the teahouse reflects some of that. The window on the rear of the house looks out over some spectacular rolling hills, so he framed the view.IMG_1404
He was an amateur artist, so he painted the walls in a pale pink with a chinoiserie theme. The staff knew that he had some china for tea, and spent ages looking for it, until they realized that it was the china they used for their lunches every day!IMG_1406
During an earlier renovation, the original walnut floors were removed, but someone on the staff had the foresight to keep them, and they were refinished and reinstalled!
Harvey had cleverly hidden a bar behind a mirror, and my friend, Emily, who’s the Executive Director at the Gardens, was equally clever and had a picture of Harvey printed out at 50% halftone and adhered to the mirror. I might have to do that with a picture of our ghost!
As I wandered back to the car, I noticed the amazing detail in the garden, IMG_1416
how beautifully everything is situated, IMG_1412
and how incredibly lucky we are to have Ladew Gardens in our back yard!IMG_1440
And I took time to smell the rosed. Literally.


  1. you certainly are. What a magical setting, I love learning about all of the special details that were engineered. Really magical. No wonder that frog likes to hang out there.

  2. I have been following your blog for a while, and we recently did a road trip from Toronto, which included the Ladew Gardens. They were so fabulous! Now I want to go back and see the tea house.

  3. So much beauty! Thank you for sharing!!

  4. i really need to get there - LOVE this little hidden gem of a tea house!

  5. This post is sublime. Thank you so much for sharing your visit to such a beautiful place.

  6. Gorgeous post, and I love the little house...adorable. Thanks so much for sharing, Sandi


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