Naumkeag House & Gardens
The gardens of the Choate family’s Gilded Age ‘cottage’ have a name around the world for their Blue Stairs with a channel running down between white birches. The geometry comes out of the Renaissance, and the falling water is an Islamic design. One like it flows in the gardens of the Alhambra in southern Spain.
Today the land belongs to the Trustees of Reservations. The house is a museum in 19th-century style, and the tree peonies bloom in May. Community events welcome visitors in the spring when the daffodils bloom, on summer nights with live music, and in the fall and winter holidays season.
Fletcher Steele designed the gardens here along with Mabel Choate, and they created them together. It took 30 years, from the 1920s to the 1950s, and the gardens touch many parts of the world. A stone relief dragon from the Forbidden City leads into a Chinese pagoda. Piers from Boston Harbor are painted as bright as the poles of Venetian gondolas. And the walks look out over the Berkshire hills.
Spring bulbs in the Naumkeag gardens
R. Cheek / Naumkeag
In late April and May, 65,000 daffodils and spring bulbs bloom here. They open in vivid color in Mabel Choate’s gardens and on the terraced hillside, along the blue steps and paths through the woods.
Whimsey brightens the gardens with a fountain full of bubbles and a May pole, and visitors relax with a cool drink or sit on the swing in the Chinese pagoda, looking out over the valley.
Trustees of Reservations
Naumkeag at Night
On summer nights, on Thursdays in July and August, the gardens open for live music, with local microbrew and summer drinks from Berkshire Mountain Distillery and others.
Even in June the garden is often open into the evening, so that visitors can bring a picnic and sit on the lawn to watch the sunset. Along with the outdoor bar, the museum also has its own informal café.
Photo by Kate Abbott
The Blue Steps glow, and the hemlock trees. The greenhouse holds poinsettias. In December, Naumkeagturns on the lights — 100,000 lights. The gardens transform with color and music.
A bonfire gives a warm place to rest with doughnuts, hot cider or cocoa with a shot of rum. The first floor of the house is open and decorated too, but the winter walk will head outdoors, even in snow.