Woodhull Hedge House Garden Remembered and Reimagined
by Linda Pastorino
My garden is remembered as a past sensation. It is structure built on a multitude of learning strategies: constant book buying and reading, traditional and tweaked design principles, owned and honed plant hoarding/collecting purchases and the many inspirational garden designers and horticultural experts that led the way for me.
This garden which developed over the last 15 years will be chronicled in this “Once Upon a Time” called Woodhull Hedge House Garden Remembered and Re-Imagined. It will explore a gardener’s dreams and journey to gain horticulture knowledge and plant collecting prowess, traditional European 17th and 18th c design principles and how these were translated to the American vernacular of a Pre-revolutionary and Federal period farm house. It will detail the aftermath and psychological derailment from severe Sandy Storm damage and the effects of three years of neglect and weed infiltration.
The strategy of a Re-Imagined Garden will enlist a bastion of “Knights on White Horses, Soldiers, Gate Keepers, Sorcerer’s Apprentices, a Maiden with Bright Thoughts, a Good Witch, a Happy Princes, Lords of Learning, Pirates of Woodhull, The Hedges Fairies” and a “Crystal Ball.” Reaching out to the cast of characters to accomplish this tale of woe and turn this into the “Golden Path” without the “Pot of Gold” will be the basis for this story line to unfold.
Once Upon A Time....
My hands-on-all-or-nothing interest in gardening was not aroused internally until some romantic trips to the UK were partaken with former Brit boyfriend to visit future grandmother of my child, whose subtle introduction to local gardens wedded me to all things gardening .
The change in atmosphere and lifestyle honed over the years (from prior New Jersey world traveling/antique collecting teenager to New York City urban dweller whose teeth were ground while attending Parson’s School of Design in the late 70s and formative club-hopping '80s) continued on to build fashion design and antique businesses over the course of 30-plus years.
Successful careers in selling antiques and design continued until 9/11 and, with its ensuing aftermath, put my then-husband’s mental ability to earn a living in disarray. We split to a quasi-rural, once RD 4, suburbanite McMansion-style existence at the last stop of the Peapack–Gladstone train line: Chester, New Jersey.
The only solution to allow myself to relocate was to solidify the “ fairy tale” illusions of grandeur by agreeing to then-husband’s plans to purchase family-owned 18th c farmhouse from his in-laws.
So while my seed was growing I had to figure out a way to make 1.75 acres work internally, as well as aesthetically, which required a rehab and restyling of the sweet colonial taste of my parents to the eccentric collector’s cabinet-style dwelling, and landscaped like Hidcote fit for this “Queen Can Do “ estate.
In times past I had turned lofts and many apartments into palaces on a shoestring beer budget. My specialty is to make all look great. I thought “how hard could this be?” Equipped with a month's worth of Garden Conservancy Open Days visits, a quick read of the entire A-Z horticulture phone book-sized manual and actual practice with Hidcote garden directors cutting boxwood, staking, and double digging, I had become entrenched with garden fever.
Concluding with a design outlined in sections to take on the complete gardening of the entire property, I decided to read all things perennial plant-related and learn the art of well-prepared soil.
Why did I start with the garden instead of first correcting the many issues and problems of this well-worn and un-maintained house you may ask? I decided I did not want to follow in Dad’s footsteps playing pick-up sticks, leaf raking misery and lawn cutting nightmare and, instead, took the route of my late Mom who was as invested in gardening as I had become. I wanted to look upon acres of well-designed flower beds filled with drifts and quantities of peonies, bulbs mixed with old garden roses, and perennial beds rivaling that of Rosemary Verey’s estate or of my favorite: Kifgate House.
Fairies whispered sweet nothings in my ear “you can do anything, my dear.” Little did I know what was to come.
Stay tuned for Linda's next chapter of Woodhull Hedge House Garden Remembered and Re-Imagined.
**All photos by Linda Pastorino
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published June 20, 2016