William Paca Garden
The William Paca Garden is a two acre oasis of natural beauty in the bustling center of Annapolis’ Historic District. Although many colonial Annapolitans had gardens, only Paca’s has been returned to its original splendor and opened to the public. Intrigued by garden details in the background of Charles Willson Peale’s 1772 portrait of Paca, researchers were able to reconstruct the site from a series of archeological digs that turned up evidence of the garden’s former glory.
The brick walls enclose a series of terraces characteristic of colonial gardens in the Chesapeake region. The uppermost terrace serves as a platform for entertaining and viewing the garden. The next two levels are laid out in parterres, geometric designs that demonstrate human control over nature. The Rose Parterre is filled with heirloom varieties, while the Flower Parterre provides three seasons of colorful bloom. The Holly and Boxwood Parterres provide year round structure with their carefully shaped evergreen plants.
The Summerhouse, reconstructed from the Paca portrait, serves as a focal point in the garden. On its upper floor the Paca family could view the garden, entertain guests, and catch cool summer breezes. The Chinese style latticework bridge provides a path over the pond to this inviting garden retreat.
The Summerhouse sits in the Wilderness, which reflects the picturesque style of gardening that was fashionable in England after 1740. Serpentine pathways meander between beds of mixed plantings. The emphasis today is on native plants of North America that had been brought into cultivation by Paca’s time.
Paca conceived water features to contain and channel the natural runoff across his property. A small brick canal once again carries water away. A natural spring, still active after several centuries and once again sheltered by a springhouse, feeds the pond. In Paca’s day, the spring water also supplied a bath house in the opposite corner of the garden.
Plants of the 18th century are known from books and letters. Roses, perennials and annuals in the parterres reflect what would have been available in the colonial period. The Kitchen Garden provides fresh delicacies such as salad greens, peas and melons. In the fruit garden heirloom varieties of apples, pears, plums, cherries and figs are carefully trained into espaliers and cordons to take advantage of limited space in an urban garden.
Once covered by a 200 room hotel, the Paca Garden is now owned by the State of Maryland. Historic Annapolis oversaw its restoration in the 1970s and continues to manage it. Today, the garden is again host to visitors as Historic Annapolis celebrates holidays, weddings and special events. Children and adults enjoy educational programming. Many gardeners make a ritual of attending the Paca Garden Plant Sale on Mother’s Day weekend every year.
Hours and Admission:
Closed January and February
Open weekends in March and daily late March through December
$10 – Guided house tour and self-guided garden tour
Last tour begins at 4:30 p.m.
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