Panic Time! Public Garden Tour

TRUE CONFESSION: The mere thought of this Saturday’s Garden Conservancy tour has put me in a state of unmitigated panic. For the weather has not been cooperating. The deciduous trees and other plants are at least two weeks behind schedule. And did I mention that we’re expecting a freeze tomorrow night?

Oh, Lordy.

Can someone please pass me a very tall whiskey?

On the upside, last weekend Mr. G. trimmed 320 boxwood (Buxus ‘Winter Gem’) in the Rose Garden. Consequently, the boxwood that previously looked like this…

today looks like this…

and this…

and this.

And here’s another positive note. The pair of Malus ‘Red Jade’ (weeping crabapple trees) are currently in bud. Whether or not they will bloom in time for Saturday’s tour is anyone’s guess.

I suspect they will bloom on Sunday.To my delight and surprise, at the north end of the rose garden, Dicentra spectabilis, or “Bleeding Hearts,” is dripping with jewel-like pink flowers. The plant deserves — and has received — my utmost gratitude.

The Herb Garden has received a good deal of attention. For starters,  I’ve edged its four raised beds with boxwood cuttings.

The cuttings — just as they did for me in the Rose Garden —  will grow roots in about 6 weeks time. Then they will form a unified, evergreen frame for the mixture of veggies within.

If you’d like to propagate your own boxwood, just follow these easy directions.

I’ve planted the green-edged beds with lettuces and other cool season crops.

The Serpentine Garden. As you might recall, I carved this trio of terraces into a hill that was too steep to mow. On the first terrace, quince ‘Crimson and Gold’ has thoughtfully opened its bright buds. Its cousin, Quince ‘Cameo,’ with fully-double, apricote flowers, will probably bloom by tour-time.

Update: I just checked, and ‘Cameo’ has indeed started to bloom. Hallelujah!

And on the second terrace,Vinca minor has produced a sea of blue beneath in-bud tulips.

Vinca’s flowers are usually periwinkle-blue. Thus the groundcover’s common name, “Periwinkle.” (In some regions, it is known as “Myrtle.”)

Next to Baltic ivy, Vinca minor is the best weed-suppressing ground cover I’ve ever encountered. It flourishes even in full sun.

Between the second and third terraces, the Yoshino cherry tree is lit with almond-scented flowers…

while on the third terrace, Phlox subulata is strutting its burdens of pink and blue. Behind the phlox is a hedge of the dwarf lilac ‘Palabin.’

Kitchen Garden. Here, I’ve nothing exciting to report.

That is…

Unless you count this bed of autumn-planted garlic…

And this bed of 85 onion seedlings, which I planted only yesterday…

And this patch of rhubarb, which will be ready for harvest in about two weeks.

Pool Garden. Should the temperature soar to 90°F on Saturday (and it won’t), you’ll be glad to know we’ve opened the pool.

Don’t pretend you don’t want to skinny-dip in 30°F water.

The Woodland Garden. Like the other gardens here, this shady retreat is weeks behind schedule. But I invite you to sit on the slatted wood swing…

And observe the emerging ferns, like this  Thelypteris noveboracensis or “New York” fern…

And this Polystichum acrostichoides, or “Christmas” fern. Polystichum remains, more or less, evergreen throughout the winter.

You will also find in the Woodland a group of in-bloom rhododendrons that overlook a Hudson River tributary…

And these recently-planted Virginia bluebells. Their buds open pink, and then fade to blue.

And who knows? Maybe the clusters of Sweet Woodruff will open their fragrant white flowers in time for your arrival.

In closing, I’d just like to say that although my gardens are not up to their usual May glory, they are definitely worth visiting. For the structure here, composed mostly of boxwood and stone, is permanent and attractive, no matter the condition of the plants within. Had I relied on cottage-type perennial borders, I’d be in real trouble.

Don’t miss anything at A Garden for the House…sign up for Kevin’s weekly email newsletter.

Related Posts:
From Wild Patch to Woodland Garden
How I Clean Old House Windows
House Tour Part 5: The Kitchen


  1. Loving the lettuce planting, and no I don’t want to skinny dip, but it’s only about the temperature. *:)

  2. One of these years I will make it to your garden Kevin. May 10th you are brave! We are on the GC tour in August, which means we have months to fuss, perhaps you have the right idea to get it out of the way early? Based on photos I have seen, I am sure your place will be a knockout!

  3. PattyM says:

    Just beautiful.

  4. Kevin, I will be sorry to miss it this year but comforted by the memories of your gardens’ beauty and peacefulness at last year’s tour. My sister and I still talk about our visit — it was one of the highlights of our summer!

  5. badger gardener says:

    Best of luck this weekend. Your garden is lovely in all seasons, at least from what I can gather from the virtual tours. Perhaps one year I will have to convince one of my gardening friends to road trip with me out to to New York at garden tour time.

  6. Kattrinka says:

    Thank you Kevin! You just identified a mystery plant in my shade garden…..Virginia Bluebells…

  7. Cary Bradley says:

    Fear not, your garden will be loved, no matter what is able to bloom in this wild and wooly Spring. We inherited Virginia blue bells and adore them too. We also have pulmonaria (lung wort) which I took a couple years to differentiate. (Kevin, I am mystified as to why one would sacrifice vegetable real estate to boxwoods? Perhaps are not twins separated at birth..) 😉 Enjoy your visitors. I know they will enjoy you and your peaceful retreat!!!

  8. Hi Cary – Aesthetics are important to me. Because the Herb Garden is on view from the house (unlike the Kitchen Garden), and because we enjoy our evening cocktails there, I want the beds to look attractive through all seasons, including winter. Once it grows, the boxwood will provide an alluring, evergreen frame. Well, that’s the plan!

  9. Shawnee says:

    Best of luck this weekend. The gardens are inspiring to me, so I bet it’s going to be that way for folks taking the tour. And if you’re really concerned, whip up your chocolate ganache tart to share with the touring folk and your gardens will be a sure fire hit 😉

  10. Connie says:

    I am really looking forward to seeing your garden this weekend! No matter how late it looks to you, it is still 2 or 3 weeks ahead of us in Montpelier, VT! My Bleeding Heart is about 3 inches tall right now. Tulips are just beginning to form buds. We do have crocus and daffodils. I’m ready to come a little south and see other things blooming.

  11. Tracy Knapp says:

    Garden looks so lovely. I am in garden panic LOL. The birds have eaten all of my beets and I am certain they are laughing:) Best wishes on your tour.

  12. My apples and crabapples texted your pair of ‘Red Jade’ two weeks ago and together they all conspired to bloom Sunday, as you suspected. Or at 4:01 PM EDT on Saturday, after we both shut our gates behind the last visitor.


    Good luck with the Open Day. I’d come visit but…well, you know why!

  13. Margaret – Well, I knew the trees were up to something. Enjoy your Open Day!

  14. Michelle says:

    Your garden is splendid, and the tour will be a resounding success! It’s easy to get caught up in the details, but in the end, everything always magically comes together. And then we can’t figure out where the anxiety came from 🙂 Take lots of deep breaths, pour yourself a celebratory sip, and most of all…have fun!

  15. Best wishes for a splendid day and a great tour. I sure wish I lived closer so I could come and see your gardens! I would love to sit on that swing and just rest there awhile 🙂

  16. Anne in Vermont says:

    Hi Kevin,

    What news on your milk bottle seedlings now? Mine are still hiding beneath the soil. I fear they are done for this year. Better luck next year. To be fair to the idea though, I planted cauliflower, broccoli and brussels sprout seeds in my bottles and had the hardest time getting the same seeds to germinate indoors, so perhaps the seeds or the mix are fault. I posted the link to your milk bottle greenhouse plans in the garden club newsletter and people ask me how mie are doing. I am still the tiniest bit hopeful in so far as I have not yet emptied the bottles onto the compost pile.

    Enjoy tomorrow. Everyone who comes will likely have the same late issues and will appreciate what you have managed to do.


  17. Kathy mcmanus says:

    Remember to breathe! Your garden looks super! You will have a fun day! Wish I could attend! If you ever want to take a break come on down to my house. My hubby & I would love to have you two visit!

  18. Wish I was close enough to come – I love gardens, and yours looks amazing. I’d also like to meet Lily

  19. Paula D says:

    Beautiful work! I love your gardens and appreciate the hard work you do with them. Seeing some of the blooms reminds me of growing up in Iowa where my mom planted every Spring. Looking at your gardens brings back many happy memories of my mom working in both her flower gardens and her veggie gardens. Thank you for sharing!

  20. Kevin!…. we love you… its an honor to be welcome in your garden…don’t fuss!

  21. People were so sick of the brutal winter weather they will be thrilled to visit your garden no matter what, it is lovely! Don’t sweat it you will be great!

  22. cynthia shultz says:

    Hi Kevin,
    Your garden always looks great. Are there any other dates coming up that your garden will be open to the public? Cynthia

  23. I certainly am familiar with the host jitters! And you will be just fine. Your garden looks so wonderful – wish I could be there myself! Wishing you a fantastic day with no mishaps.

  24. Your garden is way ahead of mine Kevin…I am in Colonie and only tulips and a few hyacynths blooming here. My one big lilac got hit with a frost when the buds were coming out and now doing nothing. It is a pleasure to view your garden. You and your partner are so lucky to have such a charming home and gardens…keep your site up and running..enjoy it so much..

  25. Wow, very early for a garden tour isn’t it? We have one coming up in June and there are many plants that will not be blooming even then. Today, we have daffodils, PJM Rhododendron, and bleeding heart–that’s it! Lots more to come but the question is when?
    I’m sure the bones of your garden are a delight in any season and much more visible without an abundance of plants. Garden architecture such as yours reminds me of visiting a mansion when the furniture was sheeted for the winter. The architecture was so visible and I realized how much I had missed when I was distracted by looking at the grand furnishings.
    I wish you a very sunny day for your tour!

  26. Naomi Shelton says:

    A fun tour, Kevin. Just relax and have fun. Just think, on Sunday it will be over and you can kick back and remember the good time that was had by all–including you!

  27. Calling from New Zealand. Thanks for sharing your beautiful home & garden via the internet Kevin. I LOVE it. I get such joy too, watching the opposite season flowering in your garden from ours in the southern hemisphere. It sure helps to look forward. We are now in autumn/winter clean up but jonquils are already saying spring is coming! Wish I could visit your garden on the open day. Have a good one. Remember we see the weeds in our our gardens and visitors see the beauty. Best wishes from Down Under.

  28. Nana Nancy says:

    Keep Calm
    Sip Champagne

  29. sherry kanoski says:

    Your gardens, even tho you say they are behind in the spring schedule, are gorgeous. Just show your visitors this website….they will love, LOVE it. I do, and I live in cold SW Michigan!

  30. God smiles on you, Kevin; perfectly sculpted gardens or not. Your home is beautifully special. I’ll never get to see it or meet you in person, but my soul is uplifted just looking at your photos. I can almost imagine myself being there among all your natural beauty. My wish, my prayer, for you is to look at the overall picture and see all the beauty, rather than worrying about what’s behind schedule. (Who’s schedule, anyway?) Please relax and enjoy yourself tomorrow. One can never come out short when one is as kind as you and surrounded by beauty, as you are.

  31. Laurene Stopford says:


  32. Kevin I was dreaming of coming to your garden tour tomorrow. Unfortunately I am under the weather so the trip would be too much for me. Good luck and have a beautiful day!

  33. Julia Hofley says:

    You’ll knock ’em dead Kevin! Looks terrific~

  34. Oh my, you do Not have to worry about Your garden- everyone will Love it – it is gorgeous and we all know weather is what it is – the garden was always perfect last week before you got here…or will be next week after you leave… I have done a few tours at my home also and I totally recommend that drink 😉

  35. Patti Rafalko says:

    Good luck Kevin. I think it will be hugh success!

  36. Scarlett says:

    Your garden is beautiful and I’m sure the tour will be fabulous! Since we won’t be able to be there in person, thank you for sharing it with such detail here. I loved seeing how the ferns are opening up. Best wishes for beautiful weather and a fantastic garden tour. I have no doubt it will be a delight. Wish I were there to enjoy it.

  37. Scarlett says:

    P.S. Love the boxwood clippings you have started. That will look fabulous!

  38. Why is this garden showing so early in the year? When do you think your garden are at the height of it’s glory?

  39. Barbara Zakrzewski says:

    The parts of your garden you showed look great. I am sure your tour will be a success even if parts of the garden are a little behind.

  40. Beverly, zone 6, eastern PA says:

    Those Virginia Bluebells, aka Mertensia, will graduate from pinkish purple buds to an ethereal shade of sky blue as their trumpet blossoms elongate and dangle. Although they are spring ephemerals and will disappear by late July, I give them prime space in the garden for their unmatched blue. Somehow the words “fade to blue” seem to fall short in describing their glory. I feel certain you will love, love, love them in short order.

    Best of luck for a most successful tour today, Kevin!

  41. I swear we are probably related, Kevin.
    I am in Zone 5 and most of my relatives floated over from Canada. Ontario, actually Napanee!

    Ring any bells?

    Merry or otherwise?

    Love your musings on the eternal verities!


  42. Lori G. says:

    Oh! I wish I could come and see. Alas, Nebraska is a long ways away.

  43. Gretchen says:

    Oh Kevin – please, just take a couple of deep breaths, quaff a bit of champagne and relax! The beauty of your gardens are beyond mere words of us mortals and as a previous visitor pointed out, you see weeds and un-opened blooms, we visitors see endless beauty and inspriation. Love your website, learn from your presentations, drool over all your recipes and look forward to every weekend visit with you. Give Lily an ear-scratch for me, please. Oh yes, you mentioned you have a cat – purrs to your fur person.

  44. Wish I could visit your garden–I’m sure the tour is going well. Gardeners understand about the weather foibles of Mother Nature, believe me!

    Your lemon tart was to die for, incidentally.

  45. Michele Reeves says:

    It is all very beautiful and I know done with a ton of love and back breaking work! Love the creativity you have in the gardens, just wonderful. Wish I lived closer!

  46. Karen L. says:

    It’s almost closing time for your garden tour and I sure wish I could have come and taken photos. At least you posted photos so I can visit the garden by reading your blog. Thanks for that. Hope all went well and I am confident it did. Soon you can sit and enjoy the fruits of your open house labor with a tall or short drink in hand.

  47. Gorgeous! much work has gone into all of these.

  48. Kevin, Thank you so much for graciously opening your garden to visitors. Although all of it was lovely and shows the care and love you put into your gardening, the woodland garden was my favorite. It was like being in a different world, far removed from the town. To sit and look down at the river and listen to the birds would be so rejuvenating. You have such good ideas and are so creative. Looking forward to that cookbook.

  49. Kevin, What a beautiful setting you have for your Garden and your House! It was fun getting to meet you in person and we enjoyed seeing the fruits of your labor. I came back to Connecticut and saw my crabapple in full bloom and my peonies about 8 inches taller! While two weeks behind last year, the heat really cranked up this weekend and things are popping! Thank you for opening your lovely gardens for the Open Days! Hope to see you again soon…..and thank you for the fabulous tips, tricks and advice that you share all year long on your web site!

  50. I love seeing your gardens and wish I lived close enough to visit! You are right, the permanent structure of boxwood and stone makes it beautiful no matter what the season brings.

  51. Kris Fox says:

    Just lovely! I wanted to come, but the virtual tour was a good substitute!

  52. Elizabeth Fox says:

    I so enjoyed seeing your garden on Saturday. What a treat! Thank you again for the boxwood cuttings. They are now planted in Connecticut soil. I am delighted to have something from your garden.

Speak Your Mind