Her Favorite Things
by Mary Jasch
an architect's garden
Courtyards and boxwood and stonewalls and nepeta,
Agave and old barns and salvage antiqua
Formal and classic and playing with greens
These are a few of her favorite things.
There is a place in Pottersville, New Jersey, that some say is the second Versaille. Settled among gentle hills and pasture in horse country, this 19th century homestead sits prettily with formal gardens and collections, and adornments of stone, water and architectural sculpture on 10 of its 35 acres. It is the home of Andrea Filippone and William Welch, architects, and headquarters of Tendenze Design, their firm of architecture, interior and landscape design.
Turning into the property through crab apple and low stone walls topped with nepeta, one sees several barns melded with a stalwart silo. The silo looks ready to launch though its bottom third is softened in climbing hydrangea. The barns, painted, clean and lovely, stood abandoned for 30 years until the couple bought the property in ’93. They spent seven years creating its renaissance.
Walk through the archway of the barns, anchored with iron horse legs, and enter another world – beyond the threshold of Americana out front. A courtyard comes into view. Suddenly the barns morph into house with long stone steps across the front with rows of heuchera, boxwood and ivy rising, flanked with agave, elephant ears and hydrangea. This is a landscape to learn from.
“I’ve always been involved with horticulture since I was a little kid, gardening and being attracted to individuals who have spectacular gardens.”
On one side, small plots with espaliered and cordoned pear, boxwood and fragrant Nicotiana abut a barn. Then, a dressed up door with salvaged frame and potted Tasmanian Blue Gem podocarpus with parsley, several boxwoods and blue scaevola plucks the horticultural design strings. The house is “a hybrid of what we like, what our eyes are opened up to, the beauty of colors, textures, proportions, the beauty of being simple,” explains Filippone.
A border runs round the courtyard under nepeta and stone with a line of big box beyond. Roses, iris, goldenrod, tall verbena with stashed pieces of old buildings like ruins wait to be discovered.
Around the house, the kitchen courtyard with three formal box-edged beds espouse Filippone’s penchant for playing with greens. Here she experiments with boxwood, looking at shapes, sizes, colors of green. She is a director of the American Boxwood Society, and propagates boxwood for her nursery’s global collection. The neat and tidy plants enclose fluttery London plane. Silver-green foliage of Pyrus salicifolia, weeping pear, teases tall, dark Angelica and downy Joe Pye. In the center, an iron gate, treasured find, looks out to a rise of green – a bowling green? – with urns and rows of boxwood planted on axis.
Beyond a passage way, an Asian pot takes center stage on a circle of thyme-sprinkled flagstone surrounded by bursting buddleia, white climbing roses and more angelica above crop fields cornered by columnar box. It’s a wild-looking place, structured to seem as if it has been there forever
To the left, a curved hedge of Viburnum tomentosum screens the view of a dirt road so the clean calm of the lily pool in the White Garden is enjoyed. Here, lawn grass, unbeatable path, shows off as foil to the building and pool. Hawthorne, with early white blossoms and red winter berries, shade bluish hellebore, heuchera and white coneflower. Low-growing ‘Justin Brouwers’ boxwood encloses the pool with tall lotus of vibrant green and pots of sprawling Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety.’
Back around front, stone steps lead to a potager next to a line of black cherry trees. Of all the plants here, only they are original. Blood red elongated berries hang from Cornus mas like red tears. Giant black urns filled with artichokes and verbena color up a lower lawn.
A series of moats create the veggie garden entrance: ligustrum hedge, pebble bed, sword-like iris beds and an attractive yet functional fence the color of kale with all the right holes in appropriate places to keep many-sized critters out.
“Moving back here to the countryside got me started thinking again.”
Kale picks up the blue in paver paths and the wooden fence where espaliered apples grow. Kale and cabbage radiate to four corners from a central tutuer of apples or morning glory or tomato teepee. Broccoli, chard or artichokes grow between them. Around a centrally located marble water lily pond, silvery weeping pear and herbs grow in box-bordered beds.
Out from the potager and into the greenhouses where Green Giant thuja and an iron gate signal a surprise. Two greenhouses astride an orangerie embrace a European-style courtyard with a central reflecting pool. The pool is solar heated and salt water, rather than bleach, keeps it clean.
Large-grained sand provides a fine walking surface and an alternative to grass. It’s easy to walk on plus it has a more European feel, says Andrea.
London plane dominate the borders edged in heuchera and other blue hued plants like ‘Jensen’ boxwood. One greenhouse is a mixed garden of potted tropicals interspersed with antiques and salvaged goodies. It is, in fact, Andrea’s antique store.
Filippone’s architectural path has evolved to landscapes and interiors – “how a building interacts with the landscape,” she says. For instance, the brownish-grey color of the barns lets them drop into the background, “allowing the structure and greens of the landscape to dominate or be stronger, where typically the opposite is true.”
Her enjoyment in finding interesting lighting and hardware prompted her to open an antiques business. She locates most items in Europe. “That inspires the design work specifically about the pieces we bring back. We aspire to have the feel of it always having been there. Having old European and American elements helps to ground the projects.”
The orangerie houses massive specimen antiques. Greenhouse number 2 is the jungle, containing familiar tropicals, including an impressive variegated agave, part of Andrea’s agave collection. Everywhere, self-seeding flowering tobacco, Nicotiana sylvestris, tantalizes with fragrance.
Don’t miss this garden. It is open to the public on September 12 as a participating garden in the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program: www.opendaysprogram.org
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published September 07, 2009