The Stevens-Coolidge House & Gardens Blooms in Spring

March 7, 2022

A historic property choreographs a colorful flower display to celebrate spring.

Text by Tovah Martin     Photography by Kindra Clineff

The Stevens-Coolidge House & Gardens has a history of making a splash. Dating back to 1729, the North Andover, Massachusetts, property had served as the Stevens’s family farm and then their country retreat when Helen Stevens Coolidge inherited it in 1914. Stevens Coolidge and her husband, John Gardner Coolidge—a descendent of Thomas Jefferson and nephew to Isabella Stewart Gardner—aimed to convert the eighty acres into a bucolic summer home. They hired landscape architect Joseph Everett Chandler to make it happen.

Taking inspiration from Jefferson, Chandler designed a serpentine wall, potager, promenades, and tree allées. Soon a full-fledged formal spread with all the fixings was happening around the neo-Georgian Colonial Revival house. To pay homage to Chandler and Stevens Coolidge’s vision, The Trustees of Reservations, which became stewards of the property after Stevens Coolidge passed in 1962, imagined a Spring BloomFest four years ago.

It started with 700 tulips, which stirred such collective applause that Joann Vieira, statewide director of horticulture for The Trustees, ratcheted the wow factor to 30,000 tulips for spring 2020. Even with pandemic restrictions, the virtual tours made garden enthusiasts swoon, so Vieira and her team upped the ante with 165,000 bulbs in 2021. This time around, 175,000 bulbs will bloom.

Rather than going with sweeps of one color, Vieira blends tulips in subtle innuendos of painterly hues, purchasing masterfully intermixed combinations from boutique bulb merchants such
as Colorblends. In some cases, she runs pansies beneath the bulbs to feather hues into the beds and crisscrosses blocks of color to create a dialogue in the living design. “She color maps,”
enthuses Jared Bowers, director of Stevens-Coolidge, “and she links spaces together for a holistic experience. It’s such a celebration of color.”

It’s all on display to the public starting in April for Spring BloomFest, with lectures and workshops scheduled while the flowers are at their heart-pounding peak. As Bowers says, “We want to inspire everyone to go home and create something just like this. Okay, maybe not quite on this scale….”

Stevens-Coolidge House & Gardens, North Andover, Mass., thetrustees.org