By: Joyce H. Munro, Morris Arboretum Archives Volunteer

Ada was her name—the baby born at Compton in 1899. Not to John T. Morris or his sister Lydia. Oh my, no! The baby was born to their gardener, Frank Gould, who lived in the carriage house adjacent to the Morrises’ summer house. And did Lydia and John give the newborn gifts? Probably, although it would have been more like John to have a new chrysanthemum named for her—the Ada Compton Gould. Note Ada’s middle name. (For the record, there are no Comptons within 500 people on the Gould-MacLeod family tree.)

Ada was the gardener’s third child. His previous two were born in Wellesley, Massachusetts, where he supervised the H.H. Hunnewell orchid house for ten years. There he became friends with Jackson Thornton Dawson, plant propagator at the Arnold Arboretum in nearby Boston. He later bartered with the arboretum’s director, Charles Sprague Sargent, for plantings for Compton’s expansive gardens.

Gould was John T. Morris’s third head gardener in six years. He was 44 on arrival, and remained at Compton for 21 years. During those years, he was a frequent prize winner at Philadelphia-area horticultural exhibitions and an occasional lecturer. But he excelled at show-and-tell. Depending on the season, he showed ageratum, Brussels sprouts, chrysanthemums, currants, honeysuckle, luffa, peonies, and roses. In fact, there came a year when the Horticultural Society reported they were disappointed that Gould had not shown much due to a schedule snafu.

Show-stopping, that’s what Gould aimed for. Such was the case in 1879 when he was gardener to Viscount Galway at Serlby Hall in Nottinghamshire, England, and manicured the grounds to within an inch of perfection for the wedding of the season—the Viscount’s. So where did Gould learn how to tend the pleasure grounds of a 4000-acre estate? He probably started at his father’s side in Hersham, England. However, being trained by a village gardener would not have landed Gould the top position at a status estate of the realm. One clue comes from geography—Hersham is just eleven miles from Kew Gardens. Other clues are his technical knowledge, his leadership in the Chestnut Hill Horticultural Society, and his friendships. And it all adds up to his being an Old Kewite. Unfortunately, the Kew Archives don’t have student records going back to the 1870s, so we rely on an educated guess.

And there are no descendants to ask. Neither Ada nor her three siblings had children. They were a close-knit family, living on Mermaid Lane during their father’s retirement years, marrying late in life. Gould’s house was recently up for sale and, from photos, it’s easy to see the hallmarks of a master gardener—stacked stone knee-walls, terraced plantings, well-chosen trees, and a proper gardener’s shed.