The restored Greek Gardens of the Untermeyer estate
In late August we took a road trip to the Storm King Art Center and Untermeyer Gardens. While much of Storm King’s art collection is not to my taste, many pieces, once in the landscape, provoke greater reflection. They also change the way you see the landscape and interpret distances and space. In person, I found myself drawn to such simple things as a series of angled, long ledges protruding from a rolling hillside simply because it caught the eye and deepened the natural geometry of the space. We also had some fun with a mirrored picket fence (Alyson Shotz) and Adam Goldsworthy’s winding stone walls.
Untermeyer Gardens was a wholly different experience. Here you find a once magnificent garden, left to fall into complete ruin, slowly regaining a fraction of its former glory. Apparently Mr. Untermeyer was famous for his orchid boutonnieres, refreshed twice a day, from his 60 greenhouses and collection of several thousand orchids. Another article describes a camellia tree that, in season, held 650 blossoms, and Mr. Untermeyer’s penchant for out of season fruit. It’s an exercise in sheer decadence to imagine the site as it once was. Martha Stewart recently visited and posted an informative series of photos.
You can just make out the NJ Palisades
Enormous mosaic pool slowly being restored. Note the stone walls – only one of several beautiful patterns found in the gardens.
Meadow at Storm King
While this blog lay dormant I was catching up with some now-familiar parks and gardens, the first of which was the New York Botanical Garden. I had never seen the water lily collection or the rock garden before so it was an especially valuable trip. Each time I see alpine plant collections I get grabby fingers and start dreaming of alpine houses and crevice gardens.
In fact, I just watched an interesting video from the Great Dixter plant fair featuring Peter Korn, who has a seemingly supernatural ability to grow any alpine plant in his zone 4 (!) garden in Sweden, speaking about growing plants in pure sand. Needless to say, his garden has been added to the list of places that I must visit eventually and I am contemplating digging out our lawn to make a sandpit.
Anyways, back to the NYBG; the native garden looked spectacular as usual. Nothing like a large focal water feature to really give you a sense of the space. I also delighted in wandering the azalea garden, where I discovered the hydrangea featured below, Hydrangea aborescens ‘Haye’s Starburst,’ which is hardy to zone 3a. The bushes veritably dripped with the lime green and white flowers. Even more interesting is that Stokesia laevis (pictured below) is apparently native to Alberta. I think its clear blue and textured flowers would be a welcome addition to the garden.
Allium ‘Millenium’ and Stokesia laevis
A close up of Stokesia laevis ‘Peachie’s Pick’
Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Waterfall’
‘Pink Enchantment’ reminded me strongly of a tree peony
The water lily collection is stunning at this time of year. Find them tucked behind the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.
It was an especially good market morning this weekend, even if I did wake up late. I finally met Bernadette from River Garden Farm who grew most of these flowers. She does an amazing job – her flowers are always impeccable. Then as I was wandering off to the subway and juggling my bundles of flowers, Bill Cunningham took a picture of them all and stopped me to ask about the berries. I feel like this mix has his blessing.
Upon reporting of this story, my friend was quick to use it as a reason for me to stay. I hear what he’s saying – New York is where magical things happen. And they’re often magic because you realize it could have happened to hundreds or thousands of other people, but it didn’t. Somehow fate, and New York, conspired for you. Those moments make up for the everyday low-level hum of inconvenience. Look, I admit it, the very same magical day I also yelled at some tourists on the escalator in the Bleecker Street subway station (don’t stand two abreast when we can all see the train is RIGHT THERE).
There are a dozen reasons for leaving and just as many to stay. But I want you to know, even as I begin to close things down here, there’s always a voice in the back of my head saying I can come back whenever I want. People do, for no reason at all.
It turns out that Asheville and surrounding area is the Southern hippie hotspot. Typically, everyone is chatty and pleasant, but there is a higher proportion of tattoos, cold pressed juices, and electric vehicle charging stations. That aside, Biltmore Estate is still the number one (traditional) tourist destination in town and employs 1800+ people. We made the pilgrimage and the house is undeniably beautiful inside – the attention to detail is very impressive – but the gardens lack a similar impulse. Or maybe it is that they stick too close to the original plan and what I read as slightly dull is in fact a commitment to maintaining the historical integrity of the gardens.
Regardless, the drive into the estate is a beautiful introduction to a cultivated woodland and that is continued in the azalea garden that leads into the bass pond. The native azaleas and mountain laurel were blooming, along with some later magnolias, and the first of the stewartia – all things that we don’t see at home. And the diversity, size and sheer number of trees was stunning.
In fact, everywhere the trees were outrageous. I’ve never seen so much forest in my life. You get the sense that towns are veritably hacked out of the overgrowth and it is an effort to maintain open spaces. Plus it is really hilly around there. The Appalachians are no joke. You could not pay me to hike the Appalachian Trail – six months in dense forest with a lot of ascents and descents, plus snakes and bears, sounds like a nightmare.
Back to our trip though. #1 activity? Asheville Pinball Museum. $10 = unlimited plays on all manner of machines. I favored Pinbot, Popeyes and Breakshot. Mom got pretty into Phantom of the Opera and Dad really liked Spiderman. Only $2000 and one could be yours guys!!!
Dome of one of the chapels of the Basilica of Saint Lawrence which was designed by Rafael Guastavino and constructed of tile and mortar
Greatest parking lot I have ever seen at the North Carolina Arboretum
Beech tree of life
Basically what I would do if I owned 400+ acres – create fields ringed with beautiful trees/forest and dotted with specimens. The views around each bend were top notch. TOP NOTCH.
The tree love continues here after a great day trip to the Gold Coast of Long Island. We hit up Old Westbury Gardens and Planting Fields Arboretum. The Arboretum was undoubtedly my favorite, although my friend, a fan of Great Gatsby, was more taken with Old Westbury. Baby B, who also came along for the ride didn’t express a preference towards either, but had mixed reviews about the traffic back into Manhattan. As did we all, B, as did we all.
Classic walled garden at Old Westbury
We hit peak rhodo time at Old Westbury which had some beautiful large specimens. The Arboretum had a lot too, and a wider variety, but not going to lie – Old Westbury sold me on their go big or go home philosophy.
The Arboretum had some beautiful dogwoods which you can sort of make out on the far left and dead center of this photo. The one in the middle had huge flowers with just a hint of blush on the tips. Lovely.
Great time of year for locust trees – their scent is incredible. Apparently the flowers can be used similar to elderflower and used to perfume cakes, etc.
Planting Fields had great greenhouses including this begonia house (of my dreams)!
For reference Uncle D