Category Archives: Landscape Architecture

Glorious, Gorgeous Gardens Galore

by Categorized: Garden Design, Gardening, Gardens, Landscape, Landscape Architecture Date:

IMG_1185For many people, including yours truly, this is the time of year when one’s garden often starts to look, well, rather raggedy around the edges.

So it is hard not to marvel at the great number of private gardens that are still in such spectacular, well-tended shape that they are open to the public this weekend.

The national Garden Conservancy, sponsor of the wonderful Open Days program, is moving toward more in-depth, regional programs, and a slew of gardens are open around the state this weekend.

Visitors are welcome to stop in at as many or few as the schedule permits. Admission to each private garden is $7; free for children 12 and under.

On Saturday, gardens are open in Redding, Weston, Wilton, Meriden, Canton and Glastonbury. The action moves for the most part to Litchfield County on Sunday, with gardens in Roxbury, Bridgewater and several in Washington open for ogling.

The weather should be delightful, and the gardens inspirational. For complete details, including garden descriptions and directions, go to

Meanwhile, here’s a sneak peek:

Acclaimed potter and photographer Frances Palmer is opening her garden in Weston, pictured above and below, Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is especially noted for dahlias and her “Alice in Wonderland” flowers.

CTFF_Palmer_clyde_s_choice_barn_webThen swing over to Pixie Perennials in Wilton, where there will be a plant and local artisans’ sale as well as a beautiful garden to stroll through, pictured below:

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Fashion designer Linda Allard of Ellen Tracy fame is opening her garden, Highmeadows in Washington — pictured below, and featured recently in an article by Tovah Martin in Architectural Digest — on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The fashionably designed garden with exquisite sense of color features a pleasing mix that is part formal garden defined by boxwood hedges and part more informal potagere, with fruits, vegetables and flowers. The new woodland garden is said to have been inspired by William Robinson’s 1870 classic, “The Wild Garden.”


And among the other gardens open on Sunday is Maywood Gardens, pictured below, the largest private estate in Litchfield County, with 1,000 acres. It includes a sunken perennial garden protected by 10-foot stone walls, a gazebo garden planted with butterfly- and hummingbird-attracting flowers and shrubs, a rose garden arranged in a French design surrounded by a circle of hemlocks, a woodland path, a heather bed, a white garden, an herb garden, an ornamental kitchen garden, a 4,000-square-foot greenhouse and more. Phew!


Outstanding American Gardens Cover ImageThis special weekend coincides with the release of the Garden Conservancy’s new book, “Outstanding American Gardens: A Celebration – 25 Years of the Garden Conservancy” (Abrams).


Secret Gardens

by Categorized: Books, Children, Elizabeth Park, Garden Design, Gardens, Heritage, Landscape Architecture, Magazines Date:

HRG--4-.JPG_HCMagazine1_03-29-2015_FullRun_HTM_847PM2T1.jpgThis month’s issue of Hartford magazine is all about secrets — and included are two secret gardens that I’ve loved visiting.

Houghton_AC85_B9345_911s_-_Secret_Garden,_1911_-_coverSecret gardens have captivated me since girlhood — even before I first read Frances Burnett Hodgson’s classic novel, “The Secret Garden,” rooted in the wisdom of a garden as a healing, health-restoring tonic.

In particular, I was entranced by the sheltering bowers of rhododendrons at my grandparents’ home, where I often played hide-and-seek with my siblings and cousins (all of them younger than I). Those hiding places offered quite a refreshing respite; I could get away from the fracas and daydream, yet still be part of the action.


Cardinal Richelieu rose, bred prior to 1847Back in 2010, work had just begun on what is now the glorious Heritage Rose Garden, in an intimate and often-overlooked corner of Elizabeth Park. Restoring the garden and replanting Elizabeth Park’s collection of old roses — and I mean old, all of them developed prior to 1867 — was the Rose-Apothecary Rosecentennial project of the Connecticut Valley Garden Club (though the actual centennial isn’t until 2017).

One of the ancient roses included is the Apothecary Rose, at right, developed before 1240 and thought to have been brought to France by a returning Crusader.

Alice Prescott Whyte, an aficionado of antique roses and author of “The Roses of Elizabeth Park,” designed the 10 raised beds in a lovely rosette pattern. Her photographs of roses are featured here. Back in 2010, when volunteers were replanting the roses and the garden still looked pretty bare, Alice told me that the popularity of contemporary Knockout roses has knocked a lot of older roses out of favor.

Rose-Camieux“We’re saving history, one rose at a time,” she said.

The Heritage Rose Garden is tucked a little bit out of sight so be sure to make a point of discovering it later this spring, when the park’s famed Rose Garden arches and beds are in full flowering glory.

For now, feast your eyes on Krystian von Speidel’s appreciation: click here.

Another Hidden Gem

hc-farmingtongarden002-jpg-20150325Meanwhile, Iris Van Rynbach writes about another hidden garden — this one in Farmington, created by landscape architect Fletcher Steele in 1954.

hc-farmingtongarden009-jpg-20150325A pioneer in landscape design, Harvard-educated Steele designed nearly 700 gardens in his career. Many were at grand estates, like the renowned gardens he designed in the 1920s at Naumkeag in Stockbridge, Mass., now a museum, with its renowned Blue Steps flanked by white birches.

hc-farmingtongarden004-jpg-20150325It was quite a coup for Stuart and Mary Smith to have the highly exacting designer transform their 1-acre yard on Main Street — which he initially derided as looking like Tobacco Road — into such a serene showplace.

Here’s a link to Iris’ story: click here.

I love the tale of how the garden was created in the 1950s by the renowned Steele, who had a fondness for martinis and a rather authoritarian streak.

And here are a lot more photos of the garden, by Mark Mirko and yours truly: click here.

Photos, from top: Heritage Rose Garden at Elizabeth Park (courtesy of Elizabeth Park).

Cardinal Richelieu, Apothecary and Camieux roses (by Alice Prescott Whyte).

Farmington garden, including view of ram’s head fountain drenched with water (all three by Mark Mirko).


Spring Is Just About Here

by Categorized: Composting, Do It Yourself, Elizabeth Park, Flowers And Floral Design, Garden Design, Garden Ornaments, Gardening, Gardens, Horticulture, Houseplants, Insects, Landscape Architecture, Plants, Seasons, Trees, Vegetable Gardening, Wildlife Date:

MIO5X098_7873_9Forget about that pessimistic, unreliable groundhog. The surest sign that spring is just about here is the annual Connecticut Flower & Garden Show, which runs through Sunday at the Convention Center in Hartford.

After so much snow, the fragrance of flowers and mulch is intoxicating. Booth after booth — there are more than 300 — offer ideas and information for your “Backyard Paradise,” as this year’s show is titled. And there are numerous seminars from gardening experts.

Saturday hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For

The Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut’s juried show also is inspirational, with designs that have rhythm, movement balance, intriguing textural contrasts and some playfulness.

2014-02-19 00.54.53This medley in chartreuse (right), including papyrus, carnations, hydrangea, spider mums, lily grass, bells of Ireland, variegated aspidistra, amaranthus and steel grass, is by Amber Pratt of the Garden Club of Kensington.2014-02-19 00.53.392014-02-19 00.57.11





Carolyn Bernard of the Garden Club of Madison (above left) plays around with the idea of apples and oranges in this whimsical tabletop display, which also includes Brussels sprouts, asparagus and spray roses.


The dynamic swirl of birds of paradise with monstera, apidistra and sabal palm (left) is by Barbara Deysson of the Shippan Point Garden Club.


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The artful drama of this design (right) by Cathy Ritch of the Long Hill Garden Club in Trumbull includes anthurium in and under water in a glass globe, accented with wire mesh and blue swirls.



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Duane Luster of the Country Gardeners of Glastonbury garden club combines heliconia with philodendron, bamboo, fasciated (fantail) willow and red maple (left).



ButterflyJuried flower show photos by Nancy Schoeffler

Rice paper butterfly from Magic Wings, a Massachusetts butterfly conservatory. Photo by John Woike | The Hartford Courant.


Hartford Blooms: A Call For Gardens

by Categorized: Architecture, Elizabeth Park, Flowers And Floral Design, Garden Design, Gardens, Heritage, Historic Houses, Landscape Architecture Date:

The afternoon could not have been bleaker, slushier, grayer or more dismal.

But Mike McGarry, the former Hartford city councilman who founded Hartford Blooms 20 years ago, burst the afternoon drear into full blossom as he described with infectious exuberance the glorious plans Hartford Blooms has for June: a nine-day garden tour extravaganza, June 21 to 29, with garden, architecture and history tours around the city, garden lectures and evening receptions at the Butler-McCook House.

hydrangeaHartford Blooms presented a garden tour last year in the West End, and the year before on Ashley Street. This June’s event incorporates that, and so much more.

“We’re collaborating with a wide range of organizations to show how important gardening is to beautifying and unifying our city,” Mike said.

There are so many glorious gardens — private gardens, public gardens, gardens at churches, businesses and institutions — and so much outstanding architecture “right under your nose,” Mike said.

hartford bloomsRemarkably, the tour book that will be a ticket to all activities and tours over the nine days is priced at just $10.

However, some tours will have limited capacity, so it’s a good idea to purchase your book now. Make checks out to Hartford 2000 with “Hartford Blooms” in the memo line, and mail to Hartford 2000, c/o CREC, 111 Charter Oak Ave., Hartford, CT 06016.

Or stop by the booth Hartford Blooms is sharing with the Elizabeth Park Conservancy at the Connecticut Flower & Garden Show this weekend at the convention center.

Hartford Blooms also is still lining up gardens for the tours. If you’re interested in showing off your garden — whether it’s grand or just a lovely pocket garden, go to

And here’s Mike’s op-ed in The Courant, “Hartford Blooms Sets Mega Garden Fete,” with more details: Click here.

You’ll see what I mean by infectious enthusiasm.