IN AUGUST, when the veggies are exploding, the coreopsis is blooming, and the hemlocks are hugging at least one scantily-clad statue, I like to spend a little leisure time outdoors. Would you like to see what’s shaking in the gardens here? Join me on this sip-and-stroll tour:
First, let’s head up to the attic for a bird’s-eye view of the Rose Garden. Sadly, most of my rose shrubs succumbed to the bitter winter of 2014. Others are still putting on growth before they can even think of flowering. Fortunately the boxwood (which I grew mostly from cuttings) and yews that surround the beds are all glowing with green pride.
I sometimes use crabapple branches in flower arrangements. Otherwise the bounty is reserved for wintering birds.
On the slope at the north end of the rose garden is a very tall, very ancient, silver-leaved maple. I built a retaining wall around its base, and gave it an under-planting of pachysandra and spring-flowering bulbs. The field stone for the wall came from an old foundation I unearthed while digging in the Woodland Garden.
Can you tell that I like symmetry?
As a focal point, the end of the path features a headless statue of Venus de Milo. How poor Venus lost her head.
If we make a right turn past Venus, we encounter the Kitchen Garden. Earlier this summer, I planted the garden’s four narrow central beds with dwarf zinnias. To bring a sense of unity to the mixed zinnia-palette, I edged the beds with white alyssum.
Here’s a quick look at some (though not all) of the vegetables in this garden:
The onion tops have fallen over, signaling harvest-time. But I won’t pull the bulbs until after the August 16 Garden Conservancy tour. After all, who wants to look at an empty bed?
Lovage and bell peppers share gossip in yet another bed. Did you know that lovage leaves are terrific for cooking? I sometimes use them in place of celery for such dishes as Duck Breasts Mirepoix. Because the young, celery-flavored stems are hollow, you can use them as drinking straws for Bloody Marys.
This year and last have been very good for pepper production. I’ll let some of the fruit ripen to red, and then I’ll cut both the red and green subjects into julienne strips, and saute them for Piperade. Piperade is probably the most useful item you can have in your freezer. I keeps bags of it beside my bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin.
With a little assistance, the heirloom tomatoes are merrily climbing their Joan Crawford-Approved trellis…
And speaking of loaded — can I pour you another Limoncello cocktail?
To my eyes, hemlock makes a graceful green background for classical statuary, such as the cement replica of “Summer” you see pictured above. Other statues in the garden include a Satyr and a cement replica of “Autumn.”
Probably you are very bored right now. But please stay with me — I’ve just two more gardens to walk you through.
If we continue beyond the pool garden, we will pass beneath a rose arbor, and enter the Woodland Garden. How I designed this shady retreat.
Here, a gushing pond provides pleasant music. Would you believe it took just one afternoon to dig, line, and fill this water feature? The pond is a magnet for thirsty woodland creatures as well as birds.
You’d like to take a spin on the slatted wood swing?
Be my guest.
Hopping off the swing, and waltzing to the edge of the Woodland, you’ll have a view of the Hudson River tributary that runs behind my property. The tributary is filled to capacity now, thanks to the nearly weekly rain storms we’ve been blessed with this summer.
Not that torrential downpours are always a blessing. Our steep gravel driveway has washed away three times.
I think we can skip the Serpentine Garden today, because we’ve visited it so many times in the past. So let’s head down to the Herb Garden, which is located between the Music Room and the old Kitchen Wing of the house.
A friendly reminder: My gardens will be open on Saturday, August 16 as part of the Garden Conservancy’s “Open Days” program. Live in or around New York’s Hudson Valley? I hope you’ll stop by and say hello! For details and directions, please visit the Garden Conservancy’s website.
Well, I hope you enjoyed our little walk-about. I certainly enjoyed your company. Let’s sit on a bench in the Herb Garden, and sip our Limoncello. Then you can tell me what’s happening at your own planted place.
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