The “Secret Garden Tour of Putnam” and Bronxville’s “Third Annual Garden Tour” will both be held on Saturday, and they offer a chance to see two very different styles of gardening.
The Putnam tour, which benefits Partners With PARC, will mostly feature gardens on rural back roads, while the Bronxville tour, sponsored by the village’s Beautification Council, will be more of an in-town walking tour of classic suburban gardens around stately homes, built during the turn of the last century.
If you don’t know Putnam, this “Secret Garden Tour” of the county offers a wonderful opportunity to poke around eight lovely private gardens and spend the day exploring country vistas and looking for out-of-the-way shops and restaurants. And the small, pristine village of Bronxville is one of Westchester’s great treasures, a trip back in time through one of the first planned suburban communities in the country.
Last year, the Partners With PARC tour raised nearly $20,000, all for the support of children and adults with developmental disabilities in Putnam.
Since the early 1980s, the nonprofit, all-volunteer Bronxville Beautification Council has been working to spruce up downtown streets and sidewalks with hanging flower baskets and displays.
This marks the third year it has hosted a garden tour to raise money for its various projects, including this year’s renovation of the Fountain Oval opposite Lawrence Hospital.
“Every pretty thing you see in this village is because of them,” says Mayor Mary Marvin. “They know what they’re talking about — they’re not just people who like to plant posies.”
Here’s the mayor at Village Hall:
“This group does it all,” she says. “You get sweat equity, not just the dollars they donate. In tough economic times, this is when you need these groups the most.”
This year’s tour features eight private gardens in the village, including Mary and Chris Behrens’ brand-new garden that was just installed by local landscape architect Renee Byers.
The garden is just beginning to take root, but tourgoers will be able to pick up lots of ideas about how to combine annuals, perennials and grasses in sunny borders.
I love these short-stemmed cosmos, had not seen them elsewhere:
The containers around the back porch and pool area are particularly beautiful.
An urn by the pool, filled with calibrachoa:
Wonderful old Japanese maple in the front yard:
You can walk the entire self-guided tour, or drive to two or three central locations and walk from there. The Behrens’ garden, for example, is just across the street from another good one on the tour, a double lot that Vicki and Si Ford have been tending for 31 years.
“My husband and I do all the work ourselves,” Vicki says.
Sundrops, a wonderful perennial with a very short bloom time:
Many years ago, the Fords installed a grass tennis court on a large flat part of their yard. They’ve now generously turned the field over to children from the neighborhood for soccer practice and pickup games. At 4 p.m. Saturday, it will be the site of an after-tour wine and cheese reception, which the Fords are hosting.
The Behrens also have a double lot for their garden, making it much larger than most yards in the tightly designed, compact village.
“This is a rare property for Bronxville,” says Carolyn Moriarty, who is handling publicity for the Beautification Council.
To take advantage of its size, the Behrens have just added a gorgeous swimming pool, guest house, garage and expansive lawn to go with their 1915 center-hall manor house.
As every garden tour regular knows, these tours are as much about seeing great real estate as they are about enjoying flowers in bloom.
And when it comes to swell real estate, you can’t go wrong with a stop at the 1890 carriage house owned by Suzanne Willis and Ed Drake that’s part of the Putnam tour on Saturday.
Honeysuckle vine in their garden:
Suzanne with Ricky Flores, one of our photographers (his photos are great, but I’m using mine here), behind a huge and happy rosa rugosa shrub:
The house, which sits on the Hudson River side of bucolic Route 9D in Garrison, was once part of the estate of Lewis Lawes, the longtime warden at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining in the 1920s and ’30s.
Lots of peonies in bloom when I visited:
Willis is the gardener in the family — a certified master gardener, in fact — and she’s got a great eye for color and combining shrubs and perennials in mixed borders.
“I carry this and put it there,” says Drake with a laugh, referring to his supportive role in the garden. “I make a suggestion now and then and occasionally she actually listens to me.”
They killed the hot tub when they moved in, replacing it with a Japanese maple:
Don’t miss the gardens around the swimming pool, the colorful containers filled with annuals, the climbing roses that thrive in shade along the back fence and the sunken garden in the former foundation for the stable.
“Suzanne is very color conscious,” says Hugh Moss, a local landscaper who helps out in the garden. “You won’t see any orange, no blue and no yellows — it’s all pink, white and purple.”
“Well, that’s this year anyway,” Willis adds.
And her garden is plenty big. “We have 1 acre here and it’s more than enough,” she says. “Everybody wants to be well away from their neighbors — that’s not me. I like knowing some people are around.”
And we can’t imagine a better neighbor to have than a good gardener, especially one who’s happy to open her gates for a fundraising tour.
A container of lantana, near the driveway:
Do’s and don’ts
for garden tours
• Act like a proper guest in someone’s home — stay on the pathways and out of the garden beds.
• Ask questions; most gardeners are proud of their gardens and happy to show them off.
• Bring a camera and notebook, to help you remember the names of plants you want to look for at your local nursery. You may also pick up the name of a landscape designer who’d be perfect for helping you make over your own garden.
• Pay attention to more than just the pretty flowers. You can also get ideas about design schemes, shrub borders, hardscaping (stone paths, walls and terraces), lawn alternatives, swimming pools, fencing and other ways to screen out neighbors.
• Pack sunscreen, bug spray, a hat and water.
• Try to sneak in; these are worthy nonprofit groups that need your money.
• Wear high heels or perfume or cologne that will make you the magnet of every bug in town.
• Pick flowers or take cuttings or seedheads. The tour is not just for you.
• Ask for a glass of water or try some other ruse to get a “house tour.” The houses are off-limits.
• Feel like you have to see every garden. It’s OK to pick and choose, and then go home when you’ve had enough.
If you go
What: Annual Secret Garden Tour of Putnam, a self-guided driving tour sponsored by Partners With PARC
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, rain or shine
Where: 8 private gardens in Mahopac, Kent, Carmel, Garrison and Cold Spring, plus Stonecrop Gardens and the Glynwood Center, both in Cold Spring
Cost: Advance tickets are $30 (the $90 tickets that include a tour of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house on Petra Island in Lake Mahopac are sold out). Day-of-tour tickets cost $40; get them, starting at 9:30 a.m., at the Butterfield Library at 10 Morris Ave. (Route 9D North) in Cold Spring or the PARC Center at 1938 Route 6 (across from McDonald’s) in Carmel.
Information/tickets: www.PutnamSecretGardenTour.com, www.PartnersWithPARC.org, 845-278-7272, ext. 287
Also: Expanded Cold Spring Farmers Market, with sales of annuals and perennials
What: Third Annual Garden Tour, sponsored by the Bronxville Beautification Council
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, rain or shine
Where: 8 private gardens in Bronxville, plus the village’s Nature Preserve
Cost: $20; available in advance at participating village retailers (East India Designs, Isabel’s Beauty Salon, Kensington Paper, Mrs. Morgan’s Flower Shop, Pete’s Park Place Tavern, Tryforos and Pernice, Womrath Book Shop); day-of-tour tickets available at Bronxville Village Hall at 200 Pondfield Road, beginning at 10 a.m.
Information: E-mail Carolyn Moriarty at email@example.com.