The Trasks began to plan the Rose Garden during the summer of 1899 after they decided to make Yaddo into an art colony. Katrina Trask wrote that she did not feel like she could design the Rose Garden until she knew who would use it after her and Spencer's deaths. Katrina and Spencer, who spent the winter designing and surveying the Rose Garden which was intended to be the only formal landscape at Yaddo.
While the Trasks were likely influenced by the classical gardens they saw on their travels to Italy, the design was unique to Yaddo’s topography and climate. The Trasks' design featured four oblong rose beds edged with burberry surrounding a circular fountain. North of the rose beds, they installed a wrought-iron gate in a row of trees screening the mansion’s lawn and a large fountain at the bottom of the hill. To the south of the Rose Garden, they installed a semi-circular stone bench near the base of a massive white pine tree that formerly stood in the garden. West of the Rose Garden, the Trasks terraced the hillside and built flights of marble steps leading to a columned pergola covered with pink climbing roses. They placed classical statues of the four seasons and reproductions of Italian benches around the garden.
Katrina’s sundial is located at the center of the pergola. The sundial is as accurate as a watch in its specific location in the garden. Spencer eventually found a British craftsman who knew how to make sundials with that level of precision. The sundial sits on a pedestal that is a replica of a table excavated from Pompeii, Italy. The face of the sundial is inscribed with a poem written for it by Katrina’s friend Henry van Dyke, Jr. The poem reads:
Too slow for those who Wait,
Too swift for those who Fear.
Too long for those who Grieve;
Too short for those who Rejoice;
But for those who Love,
Time is Eternity.”
Van Dyck’s poem directly reflects the Trasks’ mission to create Yaddo as an art colony. The poem captures the sense of grief and loss the Trasks experienced after the tragic deaths of their four children, yet also embodies the hope they found in dedicating their estate to the arts. By establishing a permanent art colony at Yaddo--and creating the Rose Garden as part of the environment to foster creativity--Katrina and Spencer Trask found a way for love to transcend their grief.