The romantic garden of Page Dickey or Garden Conservancy Tour: Part IV

What I believed to perhaps be the highlight of our garden touring was the North Salem, NY, home and life-work of Page Dickey.  She is known for her garden writing, primarily two books that chronicled her life alongside her garden here at Duck Hill (Duck Hill Journal: A Year in a Country Garden, 1991; and then Embroidered Ground: Revisiting the Garden, twenty years later in 2011).


The garden is clearly mature.  A product of years and years of love, both volumptuous and restrained, overgrown and controlled.  Dickey has called this garden home for the last 30 plus years.


One of the first things I thought upon entering this garden was, “Gosh, her husband must really like to prune.”  And I see in this personal article by Anne Raver in the NY Times from 2010 that her new millenium husband, Bosco Schell, does indeed enjoy clipping.

Thankfully so.  Because these boxwood balls (what is it about men and their boxwood balls?) are barely navigable, but who wants to nix such mature specimens?  Not Page Dickey who says in her most recent book, “I don’t have the energy to start again.”

The crabapple trees that form a grid in the courtyard garden next to the house are really what she is referring to when she says this.  If there was any thought to taking them down and starting again, it is clearly not an option.  For they are floriferous in the spring and then demonstrate such linear architecture in the winter months that taking them down would be nothing less than criminal.  Embraced by neatly clipped yew hedges, these trees need constant attention so the paths can be navigated without getting a branch in your face.



But there are such beautiful moments here; moments where the visitor can breathe a bit easier and smell the fragrance on this hillside.


I have always gardened in confined spaces.  Urban gardens, bounded by garages, fences, walls.  My hands ache and my back weakens when I imagine tending a garden that is even a little bit bigger than mine in the city.


There is a lot to do here.  And Page Dickey is keenly aware of what happens when your garden grows beyond your capabilities.  Replacing perennials with shrubs and ground covers in order to help curb the maintenance is an important focus.


And this is exactly what she’s done in parts of the property.  The shady parts.  The wild parts.  The parts that become a focus, and a relief, with age…


All made more spectacular because of the contrast with the civility closer to the clapboard house: the highly organized and pristine vegetable garden that was a naive inspiration to me…


But this garden is not simply a set of views, images or lessons.  It is someone’s home.  Someone’s passion with plants, moments in time and space, shared with family and animals.



I really appreciated the glimpse.  And the imagining without the work.  Thank you to all those gardeners who clip, rake, sweep, snip, stake, and primp so that when we come and visit, it all looks so easy.



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*