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The Annuals Tier

Modern view of upper annual level

The next two tiers, below the Greenhouse and Fountain tier, contains ornately designed beds showing off mass plantings of thousands of annuals. The geometric designs of the beds on these tiers were first created by Walter Langdon, and Frederick Vanderbilt retained and improved upon them.

Each year the FWVGA Garden Committee decides which annuals to plant, based upon historical records from the Vanderbilt era. Generally, many of the plants selected will have bright colors that look good from a distance, such as from the pathways. Typical annuals bloom continuously all summer, so there is always color throughout the season, often right up to the first killing frost.


Canna (Canna Cannaceae) are generally planted in the large round, center beds.  These are sub-tropical plants which are also considered an “annual” in our area because they cannot survive our winters. The outer part of these round beds is planted with Pennisetum Hameln dwarf fountain grass.


The “Annuals” tier was the first one to be rehabilitated by the FWVGA.  NPS cut the beds in the fall of 1984, based upon designs left behind by Vanderbilt’s last head gardener, Alex Knauss, and the volunteers planted the first annuals in the spring of 1985. It was the success with these first beds that led the founders of the FWVGA to decide to tackle larger projects over time, leading to the garden that exists today. 

Modern view of lower annual tier in mid summer

Click on photo below to view slide show of garden

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