Friday, July 27th, 2012
We here in Connecticut are surrounded by possibilities for lovely garden day trips. Whether you long to admire an historical garden, stroll an innovative native planting, experience an old-fashioned cottage theme, or choose one of many other options, there’s a garden for every wish. So when the weeds and the heat in your own plot get to you, jump in the car and jaunt off for a few hours to gardening nirvana.
Here are a few of my favorite destinations:
The Mount, Lenox, MA
Edith Wharton, the first woman awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, built her “first true home” in Lenox, MA in the early 1900’s. A devotee of art and architecture, she designed, constructed and furnished The Mount www.edithwharton.org , which commands a rise overlooking lush countryside. Beautifully restored, the 42-room Georgian Revival house with its gracious air and historical importance is certainly of interest, but the landscape was what called to me. Edith configured her three acres of formal gardens with an Italianate walled garden planted with hundreds of white astilbe and draped in wisteria; a rock garden with grass steps (very unusual in America) accompanied by a bounty of fern and hydrangea; a lime walk, kitchen garden and a foursquare flower border with thousands of perennials and annuals. The Mount offers a light menu on the terrace and all in all, a visit to this showplace makes for a memorable day. The Mount is a cultural, horticultural and literary center and is one of only five percent of our National Historic Landmarks dedicated to women. Administered by Edith Wharton Restoration, adult admission is $16.00.
The High Line, NYC
Talk about adaptive reuse! The High Line (www.thehighline.org) in lower Manhattan exemplifies recycling on a spectacular scale. A mile and a half a mile long, the elevated park (the only one in America) served as an industrial rail line in Manhattan’s Meatpacking district from 1934 to 1980. Saved from demolition in the 1990’s by newly-formed Friends of the High Line, it is now a public park, given to the city by CSX Transportation, Inc. and administered by the Department of Parks and Recreation. It has been renovated into a wide ribbon garden emphasizing thousands of native perennials such as heuchera, coneflower and butterfly weed; grasses such as panicum and molinia; and small trees such as vitex and sumac, with a plethora of other material. The park runs from Gansevoort to West 34th street, is accessed by stairways and elevators at various points along the route, and is wheelchair-friendly. Benches for the weary abound and art installations change with the seasons.
Walking the high line stories above the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, watching both the people and the butterflies is an excursion this long-time garden traveler will never forget
Harkness Memorial State Park, Waterford, CT
In 1908 Edward Harkness was the 6th richest man in America. Heir to a portion of the Standard Oil fortune, he and wife Mary spent much of their lives giving away wealth. Among the largess was their summer home, Eolia, at Goshen Point in Waterford, which was bequeathed to the State of Connecticut in 1950 www.ct.gov./dep/harkness The 153 acres of land on Long Island Sound, with its sumptuous gardens and stately manor house is now known as Harkness Memorial State Park and is open to the public daily.
Shortly after Edward and Mary acquired the property, they had the existing gardens redesigned and enlarged by Beatrix Farrand, America’s first female landscape architect. Restored and lovingly maintained by the DEP, visitors to Eolia today are enchanted by the various gardens, spectacular view out to the water, and an amazing array of flowers, shrubs and garden architecture. The mansion is open only for weekend tours and weddings, but the grounds and gardens are open year around.
For gardening ventures closer to home, don’t miss the 10th annual Gardening Fair www.bethelgardenfair.org at the Fairfield County Extension Office in Bethel, sponsored by the UCONN Fairfield County Master Gardener Program. This year’s event will be held on Sunday, August 12th from 12:30 to 5.