A Tour of Private Gardens Benefits Cornwall Library
Having one’s garden chosen for a charity tour must be, for the gardener, what a ticker tape parade is for a triumphant general. Glory reigns, all bloodshed—and with gardens as with war, there is always bloodshed; failsafe strategies that nonetheless go awry—momentarily forgotten. This Saturday, June 19, owners of eight private gardens in Litchfield County will throw open their gates and welcome ticket-bearing strangers, all in aid of the Cornwall Library, to be sure, but also as a salve to their calloused hands and bruised ambitions.
Take, for example, the beautiful Garmey garden shown above. Jane Garmey speaks for virtually all gardeners, when she says that, lovely as it is, her garden didn’t turn out quite as she planned. “It’s layout is a little more formal than I had originally intended,” she admits, “and the maintenance more intensive than I had anticipated. As a result, I am always looking for ways to make the garden more self-sustaining.”
Trouble is, just when the gardener thinks he’s got it all figured out, aesthetics at one with science, overnight everything can change. Another garden on the Cornwall tour had been a shade garden until 1989, when a tornado mowed down all the trees on an entire hillside. Suddenly, the garden was in full sun. In the twenty years that have elapsed since, many new trees have attained sufficient height that the plantings have had to be adapted to part sun/part shade.
Debbie Jones, another whose garden (above, photographed by Robert Fenton Houser) fell victim to a tornado says, “You will find my heart, soul and hard labor in the 9-year-old cottage garden with very uneven stone paths that wind around tornado tree stumps behind our 1836 Greek Revival house.”
Most of the eight gardens on the tour are in the country; one has a 30-mile view. In contrast, Michael Trapp’s garden, an intensively structured, multi-tiered space between the backdoor of his eponymous antiques and home furnishings shop in the West Cornwall shopping district and the banks of the Housatonic River, is a contained world of its own. Architectural fragments, cobblestone paths, narrow stairways, exotic follies, and unusual plant materials make this damp, mossy space seem as if it’s in another climate entirely, somewhere much older and more decadent than a classic covered-bridge New England town.
Gardens of Cornwall Tour - June 19
$25/tickets and maps available on the day of tour at
30 Pine Street, Cornwall, CT
10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Post-tour cocktail party, 5 - 7 p.m.
Bottom two photographs by Robert Fenton Houser