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In the Gardens of Vita, Hudson Valley

by Mary Jasch

On May 22, 51 savvy garden lovers hopped the Rollin’ Garden Party Bus to the Hudson Valley to visit an unusual and revered public garden and a much celebrated and published private garden.

“I had a stupendous day on your DIG IT! bus trip to Stonecrop Gardens and the private house tour gardens in Courtland Manor, New York. The flowers were exquisite, the tour guides were knowledgeable, the participants were fun to be with, the extra surprise snacks were appreciated and I thank you so much for arranging this memory of a lifetime trip!! Please let me know when the next trip is planned.” – Judy Bjorklund, NJ

We arrived at Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring, NY, for a two-hour guided tour of the gardens at the home of Garden Conservancy founder, Frank Cabot, and his wife Anne. We started exploring Stonecrop’s 15 acres of gardens at the Raised Bed Garden. In the mid ‘70s, Cabot commissioned Cono Reale, a Sicilian mason, to build stone walls and geometric, raised stone at Stonecrop’s entrance. The beds contain true alpines, many flowering, alongside a line of tufa troughs. On this day, the larva of mugho pine flies appear in one trough as brown “needles” swaying in unison as they feasted.

On the way to the Enclosed Flower Garden, we passed through a sea of ostrich fern, interspersed with amsonia and blue phlox. The English-style garden contains bulbs, perennials and artistically arranged vegetables surrounded by flowering and espaliered shrubs and vines, and offers peek-a-boo views of flowers and architecture seen through open wooden gates while Ms. Jekyll oversees all.

Past a tidy row of pleached beech, past the pit house and gravel garden, down through a meadow we arrived at the Wisteria Pavilion planted with Wisteria floribunda light pink, gorgeous, and seriously blooming. Pratt Institute faculty artist, Franklin Faust, designed the Pavilion.

Natural rock outcrops and a Woodland Garden of wild flowers, bulbs, hosta and ferns almost too beautiful all lead to a gazebo with a human-sized frog sculpture, a playful walk through a Metasequoia Grove, all lead to the Himalayan Slope – a Cono Reale-designed and created rock ledge.

There was so much more to explore at Stonecrop and history to learn, such as the fascinating 40 Systematic Order Beds that feature 80 plant families based on Phylogenetics. Plant orders “trace the history of plant evolution.”

“Mary, I loved this trip. Stonecrop had such a large variety of plants and in beautiful settings. I bought 5 plants and will be able to remember these two gardens when I look at them. The snacks were over the top. Thanks again.” – Barb Pecca, NJ

After lunch in the Village of Cold Spring, we visited the exquisite, private garden of Vivian and Ed Merrin. Every step invited an appreciation of the perfect integration of groundcover and flowering plants. Every inch of land and water was a picture.

Perhaps NJ Master Gardener April Fisher says it best:

“Just a word of thanks for again putting together a wonderful trip. The tour at Stonecrop was informative and the grounds were inspiring but you saved the best for last. The private garden was the best one I have ever visited! Such artistry in the layering of plant material, not to mention the specimen plants too numerous to count. I was in gardener's Eden! Many thanks for a fantastic day (and your brownies and date bars too.)”

“Just a quick note to thank you for a very enjoyable day. Please keep me on your list for future trips. Again, thanks for everything.” - Joanne Matejov, NY

Stonecrop Gardens: www.stonecrop.org
***All photography by Julian Sparacino unless otherwise noted.

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