Afton Villa: The Birth and Rebirth of a Nineteenth-Century Louisiana Garden by LSU journalism alumna Genevieve Munson Trimble was released by LSU Press in February 2016. Afton Villa is the third in the Reading the American Landscape series edited by Lake Douglas, associate professor at the LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture and associate dean of the LSU College of Art & Design.
“This series is about America’s cultural landscapes and those who have been their stewards,” said series editor Lake Douglas. “There is no better example than the garden at Afton Villa and how it evolved over time through the remarkable partnership of the Trimbles with our college’s own Professor Emeritus Dr. Neil Odenwald. We are proud to have this book in our series.”
Genevieve Trimble’s remarkable story of Afton Villa began with tragedy. In 1963, fire ravaged the 40-room Victorian Gothic plantation home on the historic estate, bringing to ashes over 170 years of history. Over the next decade, its once-regal serpentine entryway and carefully laid out gardens gradually deteriorated as vines strangled the rows of azaleas that once welcomed guests. A place of enchantment crumbled toward extinction.
The irreversible loss of Afton Villa’s nineteenth-century gardens and stately home inspired the Trimbles to seize the opportunity to protect the derelict property from oblivion; she and her husband purchased the estate in 1972. Afton Villa documents her decades-long restoration project while providing a history of the original owners and paying tribute to the other people who contributed to its rebirth. Focusing on preservation, Trimble reveals how the garden’s original footprint survived as well as how she thoughtfully introduced new flora into the terraced landscape, including the foundation ruins of the house, under the guidance of landscape architect Dr. Neil G. Odenwald, professor emeritus and former director of the LSU Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture.
Today, hundreds of visitors journey to St. Francisville every year to enjoy the result of Trimble’s arduous and rewarding efforts. Each spring, the moss-draped oaks welcome visitors to a rolling vista of daffodils, cherry trees, and a boxwood parterre as well as hundreds of other features in this 35-acre garden. With a vivid narrative and beautiful color and archival images, Afton Villa captures the story of this remarkable restoration.
In addition to Afton Villa, Genevieve Munson Trimble oversaw the restoration of the New Orleans Botanic Garden, where she served as president of their foundation for 25 years. Among many other accolades for her horticultural achievements, Trimble received the Place Keeper Award from the Foundation of Landscape Studies, the Garden Club of America’s National Achievement Medal, the inaugural Edith Stern Legacy Award from Longue Vue Gardens, and the Preservation Award from the Foundation for Historical Louisiana.
Afton Villa is available for purchase at lsupress.org/books/detail/afton-villa. Visit lsupress.org/books/by-series/reading-the-american-landscape for more information about the Reading the American Landscape series edited by Douglas and aftonvilla.com for more information about the gardens.