An Amazing Hillside Garden
by Mary Jasch
On entering the garden at Westover on Hudson in Tarrytown through the forest green gate at street level, the first thing one notices is the view. In the distance below the hill to the river, the Tappan Zee gleams over the Hudson, its western shore rising dramatically above it. Then the eye rolls over the hillside immediately in front of you – down the stone steps, through thick, lush plants racing down the hillside as if they were a green waterfall….
To the right, waves of yellow-striped Japanese Forest Grass hurry down the slope beside burgundy heuchera and Japanese painted ferns. On the house, horse trough-size window boxes billow with passion flower, tiny orange petunias, and sub-tropical blue eucalyptus – a theme throughout. It’s a garden where the details count – and Robert Welsch, owner and landscape designer, has got them right.
To the left, pachysandra, oak leaf hydrangea and hosta surround a towering sugar maple, while thin spikes of allium rise above the flowing mass. Beyond, a line of Japanese cryptomeria marches along a fence that marks the property.
This 1/8-acre hillside garden sports gravel switchbacks, zig-zag paths that make the hill an easy walk and that provide numerous micro-gardens. At the first turn, a 35-year-old Burning Bush engulfs the spot, spreading umbrella-like downhill. Ahead, a sea of blues begins the slow wash down – deep ‘Black and Blue’ salvia, blue eucalyptus and two tropicals: purple tradescantia and variegated ginger.
Clipped dianthus offers a tight blue shape and leads to a cacti and succulent garden in a sun-filled area. Tufa pots sit on stone walls. In the hillside’s center aisle ahead, grassy-looking day lilies and giant allium mimic the ornamental grasses planted to the left along the fence.
“I like sitting in one of the orange chairs and looking this way because you can’t see anything but the garden.” – David Davenport
Orange Adirondack chairs surrounded by delicate plants face the hill of tumbling day lilies topped with the terrace’s hydrangeas and pastel table umbrellas. Nearby, a shade garden sports ferns, specimen rhododendron …. Everywhere, bright Golden Hakone grass, a.k.a. Japanese Forest grass, brightens the garden and contributes to the sweeping movement of plants.
The path heads through a shade garden with a long-term view, where Japanese umbrella grows to take the place of a hemlock and where leatherleaf viburnum provides prime bird habitat. Big leafed dinosaur lettuce is fun among some very special plants that surprise, as does every turn in the garden.
Uphill now, wild vines colonize a forest green privacy fence and chain link fence to form a tunnel designed to make anyone feel like a kid again.
But it wasn’t always so fabulous. When Welsch and his partner David Davenport bought the house in ’95, the land was brambles and deer trails, hard to believe on such a steep, civilized yard in sight of a three-mile long bridge. A year later he started what he calls an amateur collector’s garden, which eventually became his “design studio.” After 12 years, he’s still editing, trying to simplify, says this one-time publishing CEO. Welsch changed careers to another kind of art with plants as medium and garden as canvas.
Perhaps he puts his amazing garden best: “I like the fullness and lushness and it just stops your eye. It’s a glorious mess.”
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published June 24, 2008