From the sweet olive trees to the expansive azaleas blossoms, ginger lilies and magnolias to the vivid summer crepe myrtle, the landscape at the Shadows-on-the-Teche is a reminder of the artist Weeks Hall that shaped and molded it, as well as the creative hand of nature in the lush semi-tropical Gulf South. Though occupying only two and a half acres of the original 158-acre site, the remaining gardens and house still provide a mystique and allure for its visitors. Then, as now, the predominant features of the landscape were the live oaks which canopy the property. While many of the live oaks were planted by Hall’s ancestors, it was Hall who added the azaleas and increased the number of camellias. In 1940 he wrote that in 1922, “There was not an Azalea of any sort in the place, and I have put in three hundred and added about sixty Camellia trees.”
Because the Shadows has been photographed so often, there is a wealth of historical images to document the property and gardens. Hall, who was an accomplished photographer, documented the house thoroughly. Also I. A. Martin, a well-respected photographer from New Iberia, photographed the entire site in the 1920s. The Martin photographs combined with Hall’s make up a fascinating collection of twentieth-century views of the landscape.
In the collection at the Shadows is a pair of watercolors by Adrien Persac which depict the front and back views of the Shadows in 1861. Also in the collection is an 1878 watercolor by H. Hattendorf, which records changes to the property when compared with the Persac painting from seventeen years earlier (at the dawn of the Civil War years).
Mary Weeks Moore, first owner of the house, was an avid gardener. From her letters it is clear that she enjoyed acquiring and cultivating new plants sent from friends and relatives. Of special note are the letters between Mary Weeks Moore and her daughter Allie (Harriet Weeks Meade Weightman), who was also a gardener and plantation manager. Mary divided her time between ornamental gardens filled with flowers and shrubbery and useful kitchen gardens filled with cauliflowers, leeks, squash, peas, corn, and potatoes.
Subdivision of the property took place in 1859. Prior to this, the house was situated on a 158 acre plantation which produced food crops: sweet potatoes, cabbages, and turnips to feed the slaves on the family’s sugarcane producing plantation. There are also physical and archival references to slavery on the Shadows’ landscape. There are archeological remains of two brick buildings believed to have housed some of the estimated 30 to 40 slaves who lived on the property, and the remains of the kitchen which was a building separate from the house.