Conservancy Open Day Tour: Garden Variety
What makes a garden good enough to be on an Garden Conservancy Open Day? All it takes is the artful use of the bits and pieces of land left over once a house, its outbuildings, and its main paths and driveways are in place—in short, a vision—and a prodigious amount of work. The properties open for touring this Saturday demonstrate just how much variety this simple combo can yield.
Admission $5 at each site
Rain or shine; no reservations required
For directions, visit the Garden Conservancy Website
Not all bits and pieces are created equal, of course. Owen Davidson and Mark Prezorski’s River School Farm sits on just four acres. Their relatively small island of domesticity, however, is surrounded by a 150-acre working apple orchard, which itself happens to be part of the protected view shed of Olana, the historic home of Hudson River School painter Frederic E. Church. From River School Farm, there are views of both Olana and the entire Catskill Range. A very nice collection of bits and pieces indeed. That said, 6 years ago, when they bought their 1830s farmhouse, there was no garden whatsoever. Since then, they’ve planted long rose hedges, a dwarf conifer and rock garden, large perennial and shrub borders, a witch hazel grove, and an extensive collection of specimen trees.
80 Hill Road
10 - 4
We all like to garden; Margaret Roach knows how. A former gardening editor at Martha Stewart Living, she has studied and interviewed the creators of some of the most ambitious gardens in the land. Her current gig: gardening blogger, with an emphasis on this very zone. So while the rest of us are doing whatever it is we do all day, Roach’s job is researching and writing about plants and what to do with them for awaytogarden.com. Her eighteen-year-old garden reflects this knowledge and sophistication: More foliage- than flower-centric (see photograph above), the garden features plants that attract wildlife. (Though she hangs no feeders, she is visited by sixty species of birds annually.) Informal mixed borders, large shrub borders, frog-filled water gardens, and potted displays cover her two-and-a-half-acre hillside, a former orchard surrounded by Taconic State parkland. Recently, she acquired the modern house next door, which she is in the process of turning into a guest house. Though the project is only just begun, it is instructive to see how much her approach to landscaping differs (even she’s surprised) from that at her simple Victorian. Which proves a point: houses tell us what to do, if only we would listen.
99 Valley View Road
10 - 4
Though they’ve been gardening on this steeply pitched, 2-acre plot just above the Hudson River for nine years, Gerald Brooks and Joyce Nereaux claim that only now is their mix of perennials, shrubs, grasses, lily-covered slopes, and small trees beginning to express their vision.. The topography (a pond is the only level place) demanded extensive hardscape—stonewalls, terraces. The upper portion is a Japanese-inspired garden, roses cover the front of the house, then below, at “The Springs,” there’s a wet area for moisture-loving plants. Beyond that, a long rose hedge forms the lower boundary.
234 Mt. Merino Road
10 - 5
They call the bare-stone-ledge Moby Dick, both for its whale-like shape and color and for their obsession with it. Once covered with trees, brush and earth, it now offers clear views of both the Berkshires and the Taconic Hills. Over the course of twenty-six years, Susan Anthony and Richard Galef have transformed the land around their tiny tenant farmhouse, originally set in a small clearing, into a wide lawn with a serpentine perennial bed edging a large wooded grove. There they pruned native trees to create a high canopy under which they planted ornamental trees, shrubs, and shade-loving perennials. But perhaps their greatest triumph is the former swamp that is now a naturally landscaped, secluded lake.
158 Maiers Road
10 - 4
Step through the gate of this garden and you’ll find yourself in a surprisingly private, magical world. Located right in the hamlet of Claverack, the property feels larger than two-acres because the owners, Peter Bevacqua and Stephen King, have divided it into many distinct garden rooms. Those who have seen this garden on tour before might notice that it has undergone some changes in the past year. These reflect, not only the tastes of the owners, but also of the natural life cycle of plants.
Starting in 1986 with an acre and a half of bare earth, Maxine Paetro collaborated with horticulturist Tim Steinhoff to create a series of enchanting garden rooms. Broccoli Hall now features an apple tunnel, a brick courtyard, a lavish display of spring bulbs blooming with crabapples in May, an extensive border of iris, peonies, and old shrub roses flowering in June, a tree house with long views, and a secret woodland garden with a teddy bears’ picnic.
23 Flint Hill Road
10 - 4