Harvey S. Ladew (1887 - 1976) was a noted topiary artists and foxhunter, he is the creator of the Ladew Topiary Gardens .
Ladew was born in New York City, heir to his family business making leather belts. Not the leather belts a person might wear, but the ones used in factories to operate various types of machinery. Because of this family business, Ladew was made a millionaire at a young age. As a child Ladew spoke French before he spoke English and was treated to boyhood drawing lessons from curators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Ladew family were also noted travelers, traveling often to Europe, visiting relatives. Harvey was in Europe at the outbreak of World War I, leaving Europe Harvey took the first boat that was available home; which happened to be the German Kaiserís confiscated yacht. During the Ladew served as an Army liaison officer for the American forces.
After the wars conclusion Ladew returned home and seceded to retire from the family business, instead indulging in pursuits of his own passions. One of these passions was foxhunting. An ardent foxhunter since 1914, Ladew spent much time early in his life riding horses on Long Island. Ladew participated in fox hunting not on in the United States, but also in England, Ireland and France. He once set an international fox hunting record by riding to hounds on both sides of the Atlantic in a seventy-two hour period. This was accomplished by crossing the Atlantic in an amphibious plane.
By 1929 his passion for the fox led him to Maryland. Leading his home on Long Island, he purchased Pleasant Valley House and Farm located in Monkton, Maryland . At the time of purchase the hose was extremely run down. Ladew embarked on an extensive restoration project on the home, rebuilding sections of the house and including modern fixtures. Friend and architect, James OíConnor , helped Ladew in the restoration.
With the house mostly completed by 1937, Ladew turned his attention to the grounds. He had discovered the art of topiary in England in the 1920s when he saw a clipped hunt scene atop a hedge in Gloucestershire. Thanks to his trips to England, as well as Italy, he knew what sort of garden he wanted. It was to have two cross axes to allow for the long vistas he had seen in Italian gardens with "garden rooms" off each axis. The axes meet in Ladew's oval swimming pool, placed in the center of the Great Bowl. This transformation of 22 acres (89,000 m²) fields previously used for crops and livestock, into gardens led to Pleasant Valley Farm being described as "the most outstanding topiary garden in America," by the Garden Club of America .
Ladew was determined to find a way of preserving his creation for all to enjoy. The result was the establishment of the Ladew Topiary Gardens, Inc., a non-profit organization whose mission is "to maintain and promote the gardens, house and facilities in keeping with the creative spirit of Harvey S. Ladew for the public benefit and for educational, scientific and cultural pursuits." The house, gardens, and grounds were opened to the public in 1971, hosting several events a year.
Ladew was also a recipient of several awards throughout his lifetime. He was the Master of the Elkridge-Harford Hunt for several years and he received the Distinguished Service Medal of the Garden Club of America for his "great interest in developing and maintaining the most outstanding topiary in America, without professional help."
Ladew died in 1976 at the age of 90. Among his many friends were, T. E. Lawrence, Richard Rodgers, Cole Porter, Noel Coward, Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable, Somerset Maugham, Colette, Italian contessas, Belgian and French counts, and members of the British Royal Family.