The Garden Conservancy's Columbia County Open Day Tour
Balancing Inspiration and Envy
The Garden Conservancy, an organization dedicated to preserving America’s outstanding gardens, hosts open days tours in different regions throughout the country at various times throughout the year. It gives gardeners, garden enthusiasts, admirers of good landscape design, and nosy neighbors a chance to peek inside some of the best private gardens in their area. We in the Hudson Valley are particularly blessed. From April through September, and almost every weekend in June and July, various regions, from Westchester to the Berkshires, Connecticut to the Catskills, hosts a weekend tour. The tours are very well organized, and it makes a fun afternoon, whether exploring some in your own backyard or driving a little further afield to make an afternoon of it.Bevacqua/King Garden
Another great thing about the tour is the gardens on it come in all shapes in sizes, giving one the opportunity to see how someone transformed their suburban backyard or urban patio, to seeing how the “other half” gardens”. For both the beginner and the expert, you can’t help but to walk away with ideas to try on your own garden. On a good day, I have come away inspired with concepts to adapt on my own place, noting how how other people organize their spaces, utilize water features, integrate architectural elements, or use everyday plants in interesting ways. Each stop on the tour can spark on idea about something, from edging to vegetables.
That’s on a good day. On a bad day, (or more accurately, a bad mood day) seeing such horticultural virtuosity can trigger an acute case of envy. Instead of enjoying the fruits of others labor, I begin to compare and despair. From “How did they do that? “ and “Why don’t mine look like that?” To (if sugar levels are particularly low and envy gear is in overdrive) “they must employ an army of undocumented weeders”, “I thought we were on restricted water use right now?” and “Doesn’t that look like the statue stolen from a cemetery in New Orleans 3 years ago?” Fortunately, my good days far outnumber my bad ones. Even then, there are worse things to do than something that triggers only one out of seven deadly sins, so I have found through years of maturation, that I can now put aside my envy and ninety percent of my snarkiness approaching each garden with a spirit of bonhomie and appreciativeness for others’ efforts.
This past Sunday, June 10th, I visited 3 of the gardens open to the public in my vicinity. They were Scott Canning’s and Jeff Ruisick’s in Germantown, Scott Frankel’s and Jim Joseph’s in Livingston, and Peter Bevacqua and Stephen King’s in Claverack. They are each unarguably breathtaking, the result of years of labor, and unique reflections of their owners’ tastes. I can’t say I had a favorite among them. All were very different but outstanding examples of good design, all had something in particular that stuck with me afterwards, and I know the owners of each garden personally, so I am not going to call one out over the others. Having said that, I promised I would note that Trish and Jonathan, the volunteers manning the gate at the Bevacqua/King garden, were FAB! I will remark on something each shared that I can (hopefully) some day have stick in my head when I plan my own landscaping. Each of the gardeners did an amazing job of integrating the buildings on their property as elements in the landscape. Either acting as focal points in views framed by plants, Frankel/Joseph Gardenas structural backdrops or foils for organic material, anchors for beds or plantings, or as elements to help take your eye from the foreground to the middle or far ground of the landscape.
Each also used different interesting devices to create perspective and naturally pull you forward, deeper into the garden. To follow are pictures I took of some of the highlights of each garden.
A note of caution to potential garden hosts. Visitors will try to peak at everything around your property, despite the best efforts of guardbusts.
No need to despair about missing last Sunday's open day tour, the area has plenty more open days in the weeks and months ahead. Check out the Garden Conservancy’s Website for their calendar and more information.