Two of the best private gardens in the Hudson Valley — Henriette Suhr’s Rocky Hills in Chappaqua and Michael and Judy Steinhardt’s 55-acre spread in Bedford — will be open on Sunday, along with a sweet little in-town garden in Chappaqua, as part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program.
The program has been in the news lately. Here’s a link to a piece from last weekend’s NYTimes, with photos of Pepe Maynard and Page Dickey. There was a great one of Pepe and John Maynard that ran on the front of the Westchester section that I don’t see on the web site.
Here’s a link to a post from Mrs. Suhr’s garden about this time last year, with great photos by our Mark Vergari.
And some photos of the Steinhardt garden from an earlier post.
And a link to the Open Days Web site, with a full sked for the year. This is a great program. Go to as many of the gardens as you can.
Here is my article from the paper last year about the same three gardens that will be open Sunday. I’ll update the dates to avoid confusion.
Open Days for 3 special Hudson gardens
The Journal News
A couple of more great Hudson Valley gardens will be open to the public on Sunday as part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program: Judy and Michael Steinhardt’s 55-acre estate in Bedford and Henriette Suhr’s exquisite painterly garden on 8 acres in Chappaqua that’s known as Rocky Hills. They will be joined by a charming little newcomer on a quarter-acre plot in the heart of suburban Chappaqua owned by Shobha Vanchiswar and her husband, Murali Mani.
I can’t imagine three more different gardens – what a treat to have them all open on the same day.
The Open Days program allows the public to see some of the country’s best private gardens. Garden designers Penelope Maynard of Bedford and Page Dickey of North Salem launched the program in 1995, modeling it after the “Yellow Book” program in Great Britain. The $5 garden admission fee for each garden goes toward the national preservation efforts of the Garden Conservancy, which is based in Cold Spring.
This year, 22 private gardens in Westchester will be open for at least one day from now until Nov. 1, when the Steinhardts offer a final fall viewing of their garden. Nationwide, more than 300 private gardens will be open to the public this year.
Because it so reflects the great taste and style of its owner, Suhr’s garden has always been among my absolute favorites. Every time I visit, I discover a new vista or hidden corner of azaleas and rhododendrons or a trove of unusual plants just added by Timothy Tilghman, her full-time gardener (and former gardening editor at “Martha Stewart Living”).
Suhr, 91, has been gardening here for more than 50 years and it’s great fun to see the property’s complete transformation from ordinary suburban yard to a richly textured and colored garden that will one day be a park owned by Westchester County.
This marks the second year that Suhr has decided to open her garden for a second day in May so that visitors may see her extensive bulb collection and other early spring bloomers like her unusual yellow magnolia trees. On a sunny day last week, the entire garden was underlain with a soft blue carpet of forget-me-nots and the soaring dawn redwood trees were just beginning to leaf out. Even some of the azaleas and late-blooming tulips were in full color. Rocky Hills will be open again from 2 to 6 p.m. on May 23.
Don’t miss the hillside meadow of wildflowers and perennials just beyond the rock garden. I’ve never seen so many forget-me-nots in a single setting. And be sure to visit the newish rock garden behind the barn for ideas for your own garden.
“This is ideal for a small garden,” Suhr says. “Everything here is 2 or 3 years old and nothing has had to be replaced. We just put a little salt hay out to cover it in winter – that’s all.”
The Vanchiswar-Mani garden may be modest in size, but it won a Golden Trowel award from Garden Design magazine last year. The small garden has many European touches, including 38 espaliered apple and pear trees, arbors, window boxes, a checkerboard garden and a canopied dining area.
A portion of admission proceeds from this garden and Rocky Hills will go directly to the Garden Conservancy’s efforts to preserve Rocky Hills.
Vanchiswar and Mani have been gardening here since 1992 and they’ve gradually converted pretty much every inch of the property into some sort of garden feature. They’ve also added terraces, an herb garden, a treehouse, fountain and small greenhouse. I particularly like their handiwork with bricks.
“Everywhere we could have a garden, we basically have done that,” Vanchiswar says. “There’s really a lot you can do in a small space – I can’t imagine working on anything bigger.”
The Steinhardts’ exuberant, over-the-top gardening style may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s great fun to see the property at least once. Clearly Michael Steinhardt has never met a plant he didn’t like, and visitors will find more than 2,000 species of trees, shrubs, lilies, ferns, bulbs and perennials.
Jerome Rocherolle, his gifted landscape designer, has managed to take his boss’ mania for mail-order plants and work them naturally into lush woodland settings and garden vignettes with ponds, walkways, bridges and stream beds.
Along with all these great perennials and trees, visitors will find dozens of unusual waterfowl and a veritable menagerie of llamas, zebras, wallabies, lemurs and camels. You can get lost in a whole other world here for hours – and I have; luckily, I was working with a photographer who had a good sense of direction. The Steinhardt estate has been among the most popular Open Days gardens for a few years now, drawing several hundred fans whenever it’s open.
Be sure to visit the 7-acre maple garden with its 350 cultivars of Japanese maples planted naturally in a hillside setting with tons of stones. These maples are known for their gorgeous fall color show, but I find them just as pretty in early May when they’re beginning to leaf out.
– For more information, including wheelchair accessibility, or to order the directory, call the Garden Conservancy at 888-842-2442 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays or visit www.opendaysprogram.org.
– Admission is $5 per garden, children under 12 free, no reservations are required and Open Days are rain or shine.
– Visitors may begin their Sunday garden tour at the Vanchiswar/Mani garden at 76 Castle Road in Chappaqua or Henriette Suhr’s Rocky Hills at 95 Old Roaring Brook Road in Chappaqua. From either of these gardens, you can pick up directions to the Steinhardt garden at 433 Croton Lake Road in Bedford.
– Directions to Rocky Hills: From Saw Mill River Parkway, go north to Exit 33/Reader’s Digest Road. At traffic light, turn left, then make a sharp right onto Old Roaring Brook Road. Rocky Hills, No. 95, is 1 mile on right.
From Merritt Parkway/Route 15, travel to I-287 west and exit at Saw Mill River Parkway north. Proceed as directed above.
– Directions to the Vanchiswar/Mani garden: From lower Westchester, take Saw Mill Parkway north to Exit 32. Follow signs for Route 120 South, through hamlet of Chappaqua. Cross parkway. Turn left at “Y,” and then left onto South Greeley, then right onto King Street. Halfway up King Street, turn left onto Castle Road. House antiques at crossing. House is No. 76, with post and rope railing.
From the north, take Saw Mill Parkway south to Exit 32. Make 2 right turns and proceed as directed above from Route 120 south.