Duncan Brine’s first garden was in Brooklyn, in a dumpy plot behind his new girlfriend, now wife, Julia’s apartment. “I made a garden so I could film it,” says the Princeton theatre major turned filmmaker turned landscape designer. “It blew my mind.”
Brine’s gardens have been blowing minds ever since. This Saturday on the Open Days Conservancy Tour, the couple’s 6-acre Pawling spread, which doubles as family home for themselves and their two sons, as well as headquarters for Horticultural Design, Inc., will be open to the public, an opportunity so special it has occasioned a billboard in the center of town.
At once naturalistic and theatrical, Brine’s garden challenges every assumption. A knowledgeable plantsman who teaches off-season at the New York Botanical Garden, he confidently tosses together commonplace natives with rare and exquisite exotics, mass plantings with specimens, fine tuning each close-up but always with an eye to the big picture. His garden has no apparent edges: it flows, not so much from “room-to-room,” as we’ve been taught a garden should, but from atmospheric eco-system to eco-system. If this is theatre, it is in the round, not trapped inside a proscenium arch. At every turn, there’s a surprise, yet, in the end, it all seems inevitable, as if Brine got permission to bend nature to his whim.
All good gardens are instructive. This one? It will blow your mind.
For those who wish to learn more about gardening with native plants, Duncan Brine highly recommends Bringing Nature Home by Douglas W. Tallamay (Timber Press).
The Brine Garden
21 Bluebird Inn Road, Pawling
Saturday 2 - 6
Two other gardens in Stockbridge and Lenox will be open on Sunday from 10 to 4.