In early 1930, after the death of matriarch Ada Cummer, the Cummer family reorganized the property in their family compound. Ada’s three heirs—Arthur, Waldo, and Mabel—decided to tear down their mother’s house and divide up the property among them.

Arthur and Ninah Cummer demolished their old garage and greenhouse to make room for a new garden—a companion to the English Garden—that would open out onto the river, with Arthur’s Putting Green forming a tapis vert that separated the two gardens.

In 1930, Arthur and Ninah Cummer took a trip to Italy where they visited the Villa Gamberaia. Their trip had provided Ninah with much food for thought, and her love of Italian ornaments also may have sparked the idea making an Italian garden.

The Italian Garden was designed in 1931 by pre-eminent landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman (1869–1950). Like Ninah, Shipman had also just returned from a trip to Italy, where she visited the Villa Gamberaia. The Italian Garden proved to be a marriage of Ellen Shipman’s skillful plan and Ninah Cummer’s horticultural knowledge and ingenuity.

See Judith B. Tankard, A Legacy in Bloom: Celebrating a Century of Gardens at The Cummer The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, 2008.

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