Stonecrop Gardens, a magnificent 12-acre public garden in Cold Spring, has been one of the best-kept secrets of the Hudson Valley gardening world since it opened to the public in 1992. The staff hopes to change that this year.
“We’re still labeled as such a rare jewel,” says Amy Pelletier, Stonecrop’s horticulture and education coordinator. “People are just finding out about us. We’re starting a big push to get people in this year.”
Beginning May 1, the gardens will be open until dusk on Friday nights for the rest of the season.
“We want people to bring a bottle of wine and picnic,” Pelletier says.
Here’s Amy with some of the alpine troughs:
(photos here by our Ricky Flores; here’s a link to an earlier post with my photos at Stonecrop)
And two big events this coming weekend will surely draw a crowd. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Stonecrop will hold its annual Alpine Plant Sale in conjunction with the North American Rock Garden Society and some of the best alpine nurseries in the United States and Canada.
From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, the gardens will be open to the public as part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program. The standard $5 admission fee for Stonecrop will get you into either event.
The gardens are usually open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, as well as the first and third Saturdays of the month, from April 1 to Oct. 31.
Stonecrop sits on rocky terrain 1,100 feet above sea level in the Hudson Highlands. It’s famous for its alpines and trough gardens.
“Alpines typically are plants growing at higher elevations,” Pelletier explains. “They can tolerate wind and severe conditions, and they tend to be low growing, forming mats, and they like to bake in the sun and they don’t like humidity.”
If you live in an apartment with a terrace or patio, alpines may be just the plant for you. They are ideal for people with small gardens or rock gardens of any size.
“More and more people are saying, ‘I have a tiny yard — what can I plant?’” Pelletier says.
Frank and Anne Cabot created the Stonecrop gardens more than 30 years ago, and Caroline Burgess, a British horticulturist, has been in charge since the 1980s.
Burgess’s first job was with the legendary garden designer Rosemary Verey.
“You’ll see a lot of her influence here, especially in the Flower Garden,” Pelletier says.
The Cabots built a charming French Provencial hilltop house on the site in 1958, and they are usually in Cold Spring in spring and fall. Summer finds them at Les Quatre Vents, their fantastic garden in Quebec.
The Cabots founded the Garden Conservancy in 1989 to help preserve great American gardens and to open them to the public for education and enjoyment. Its national headquarters are nearby.
When visiting Stonecrop, be sure to pick up a map with descriptions of the many gardens on site. Highlights include the Wisteria Pavilion, Alpine House, Rock Ledge, Gravel Garden, Metasequoia Grove and the Bamboo Grove.
And wear sensible shoes — rock outcroppings are everywhere. In just a few weeks, the staff will bring most of the plants from the glass Conservatory outdoors for the summer. In warm weather, Stonecrop sells plants that it propagates from seed.
This time of year visitors will find lots of flowering trees and shrubs and hundreds of thousands of spring bulbs. The staff plants as many as 60,000 new bulbs every fall. Snowdrops:
May and September are the best months in the gardens, Pelletier says. So mark your calendar, grab a bottle of wine and come for a visit on a warm Friday evening next month.