Garden Conservancy Tour 2014: Part III


Are you as crazy about these pebbled concrete pools as I am?  This garden is the little jewel in the middle of Hudson, NY, called ‘Hudson Hood’ and the third private garden we visited on our tour this summer.

Hudson is worth visiting for the history alone.  What I didn’t know is that although much of its downtown core has been gentrified and adopted by ex-NYC’ers as their ‘retirement project’, there still exists a very real divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’.

Be that as it may, as a tourist you can choose to learn as much or as little about the place while you’re there.  I will save what I’ve learned for another post.  In the meantime, more about ‘Hudson Hood’.


This urban garden is characterized as a ‘shotgun’ garden — meaning it is long and narrow.  Indeed, it is — plus it is shaded by a giant tulip tree, giving it a feeling of repose and calm.

It is primarily a green garden, with care and consideration given to shapes and textures of plants and their leaves.


Much of the garden is viewable as you enter.  As you walk through it, you are totally surprised when you come upon a totally hidden – and modernist – pond and screened-in sanctuary…


What is there not to love?  Such a bold departure, but a perfect spot to sit, contemplate life and watch dragonflies zip around the waterlilies….


Having a place where you can enjoy your efforts, with a cushioned bench to snooze and have a glass of something refreshing is golden — make sure you include a special spot like this in your garden in order to make it truly magical.




Garden Conservancy Tour 2014 – Part II

 It was the greenhouse, really, that made me stop breathing for a moment and stand there with my mouth open.  The English ivy growing up the walls, the aged paned windows, the vintage cupboard, and the stained and curling photographs.  Even one showing Mrs. Greenthumbs, Casandra Danz, in one of her comic poses…


I don’t know if you share my opinion on this, but I could live here quite happily…


… and know that I had found my place in paradise … is that too corny?


But wait, there’s more.

This is the garden belonging to Peter Bevacqua and Stephen King, no, another Stephen King, in Claverack, NY.  I don’t know who these two are besides very committed, enthusiastic and experienced gardeners — with a bit of disposable income in their retirement years.  The pair moved here in 1988 from the Upper West Side, aka Manhattan, and have been showing their garden to the public as part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days since at least 2004.  Although not a competition, being chosen to participate in the Open Days is, Bevacqua says, “…like winning an Oscar or something.”


This two-acre garden (they purchased the property next door in 2000) feels like an impeccably maintained estate.  Languorous trees over verdant lawns, crisp edges and tightly clipped hedges make touring this garden immensely satisfying, since absolutely nothing is amiss and everything looks lush and well cared for.


Unfortunately, I’ll have to leave it here since for the last week or more my computer is refusing to download anymore photos :c(    Does it not want me to share my experience of this lovely garden with you?  Or is it just being a jerk.  I would guess the latter *sigh*

Garden Conservancy Tour 2014 – Part I

I’m just back from a trip to upstate (middle?) New York for a visit to six spectacular gardens.  I thought I would chronicle them here in six parts.  These were private gardens that were open to visitors as part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program.  Three were close to Hudson, NY, and the others were in North Salem, NY.


Margaret Roach’s garden in Copake Falls is one I’ve written about before (see here) when we visited about five years ago and it was nice to see it again.  Like all of us, Margaret is trying to balance plant passion and taking care of a large garden with aging hands, backs and knees.  You wouldn’t know it though because her beds are still beautifully edged and dressed, the veggie garden full and orderly and her pots carefully placed and ready for the season.




It is so rewarding to be able to catch a glimpse into the world of other gardeners.  Thank you Margaret for opening up your private space to hoards of admirers and their heavy, sometimes clumsy feet.


A whole new meaning to the word “foster”

“I’m not ashamed of what I did.  I just don’t understand how it happened.”

That was my husband, who after months of care, attention and making sure I didn’t inadvertently vacuum it up or knock it down, safe-guarded this hibernating creature from September 2013 through May 2014 on the stairs down to our basement.  In my husband’s defence (in his own words), it’s dark down there. IMG_0571

 Yesterday, he set it free.

Yes, it is a dried up maple key.

But I’ll bet that maple key never saw so much love and compassion.

Earth Day 2014 and a challenge….

In honour of Earth Day, especially when this day in 2014 is grey and wet and there is little colour yet to be seen, I give you hope but I also give you a challenge….


How are you celebrating?  Have you gone searching for the earliest spring blooming perennials in your garden?


Did you skip your clean-up last fall and are you having now to unearth blooms from under a blanket of wet leaves?


Are you seeing these beauties in other peoples’ gardens?  Are you now making plans for this autumn, searching for Chionodoxa, primrose and other jewels to enjoy in your own space next spring?


This spring, I challenge you to not simply look down and appreciate the plants.  I challenge you to take a garbage bag with you on your next walk and pick up plastic, pop cans, other peoples’ trash — there is nothing that makes a landscape more unhappy and feel more unloved.   And if this blight is on your regular commute, you see it everyday and it chisels away part of your soul and your feelings of hope for the future.   Make the world, your small piece of the world, a place that can bring joy instead of discouragement.  Honour a small part of your world and clean it up.  Do it in honour of Earth Day…

But do more than this:  tell me about it!  Take “before” and “after” photos and I’ll post them — and give you kudos for a job well done.


Wildlife refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida

As we enjoyed the sun and heat of February in Florida, we were on a perpetual quest to find friendly places where we could bring Skye-dog and allow her to walk with us without the fear of poison ivy, sand burrs, crazy oblivious tourist drivers and those with dog phobias.

We, like many others before us, made our pilgrimage to Sanibel Island (off the coast from Fort Myers on Florida’s gulf side), which is known for unparalleled shelling, white beaches and being friendly to visiting dogs.


Causeway to Sanibel Island (beware the afternoon rush hour!)

But we didn’t really care to spend much time on the beaches; temperatures in the 80s and all that made trekking in the hot sun brutal!  Especially with a black dog…


Miles of sand on Captiva Island, just north of Sanibel – doggie prints with dragging leash…shhh!

…and with no shade, unless you owned one of the mega-homes on either island and could sit on your covered porch, sipping a gin and tonic, you were on your own.


Come on in! Not.

Our destination ended up being the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which comprises over 6000 acres on the northern half of Sanibel Island.  Yes, the entire northern half of the island has remained free from builders!

This parcel of land, wetland, inlets, mud flats and mangrove was saved from development when conservationist, angler and hunter Jay Norwood Darling (who also happened to be a well-known political cartoonist) convinced President Harry Truman to ensure its protection.  Truman signed an executive order creating the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge in 1945 and in 1967, five years after Darling’s death, it was re-named the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge — ‘Ding’ was his ‘nom de plume’ (leaving off the ‘arl’ in his name).  Darling had twice won a Pulitzer Prize for his inspirational editorial cartoons (in 1924 and 1942) and in 1934, then president Franklin Roosevelt rewarded him by appointing him Director of the U.S. Biological Survey, the precursor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Darling designed the national symbol for the refuge system called the Blue Goose, which Rachel Carson (author of Silent Spring, conservationist, environmentalist and scientist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from 1932 to 1952) referenced here:

“Wherever you meet this sign, respect it.  It means that the land behind the sign has been dedicated by the American people to preserving, for themselves and their children, as much of our native wildlife as can be retained along with our modern civilization.”


Explore, discover and inspire!

The boardwalks here afford the visitor a view of the mangroves from above, a rare vantage point.  Entering the park, parking and walking along these peripheral trails is free — a bonus to entrance-fee weary travellers.


Bird and beast watching

There are many birds to set your eyes on here:  pelicans, egret, ibis, herons and more…


Handy identifier for folks like us, who haven’t a clue.

But what I really loved were the little suitcases placed along the handrails with what appeared to be life-like lumps of poo.


“Excuse me. Someone pooped on your briefcase.”

Charming to both young and old, the handle beckons.  So you dutifully open and find this …


AHA!  Scat.  Coyote poo.  This particular kind of thing will definitely come in handy.

And so you go along and make guesses.  What kind of poo is this?


I’d guess it is something large…..



What a wonderful interactive way of learning, for big and little kids.


Adieu to winter

The only real reason for winter is for Skye-dog to demonstrate her ability to torture a ball in the snow.


Teeth and fuzzy feet….


…or torturing it in a snowbank.



The melts and succeeding frigid temperatures have made the snow throughout March (and into April) crispy and unyielding.  Not a good combination for ball pouncing and unstable doggie feet.

There is nothing left of winter that still charms me.


Oh, perhaps I’m wrong.

Skye is pretending to be non-plussed.

All I can say is, she must be cold.


I think the river is melting.


The snow can’t be far behind.  Mud is just around the corner.  Oh joy.