Thursday, February 17, 2011

From The Garden Bookshelf

Private Gardens of Connecticut
by Jane Garmey, photographs by John M. Hall
The Monacelli Press $65 ISBN 978-1-58093-241-7

There is no argument that Connecticut is fertile ground for great gardens.  Both the topography of the land and the variation in climate (three hardiness zones are represented here), have given rise to a large number of superb gardens, from the shoreline along Long Island Sound, to the hills and valleys in the northwest corner of the state.  Much of the landscape is still rural and even the largest cities in Connecticut are relatively small.  It's no secret that a large part of Connecticut's rural character has remained that way because so much of the state is within easy commuting distance of New York City.  Over the years, Connecticut has been the place for New Yorker's to establish their bedroom communities and country retreats. And with them came some magnificent gardens.

In this 2010 release from Monacelli Press, Jane Garmey has collected 28 private gardens from across Connecticut.  They range in size from grand estate gardens, like those of Anne Bass and Oscar De La Renta, to small, elegant town and village gardens, like Gillian Steele's garden in Greenwich, or Michael Trapp's garden in West Cornwall.  Many different styles of gardens are also represented, from the very formal to the very wild; there are woodland gardens, coastal gardens, and gardens that would thrill both designers and plant collectors.

Garmey's text is both thoughtful and inquisitive.  Her descriptions of the gardens are written like those of an expert, seasoned gardener yet she has no trouble conveying the natural curiosity and amazement that we all feel when visiting a wonderful garden for the first time.  And, John Hall's sumptuous photographs truly bring these gardens to life.  It was no small task to photograph such a wide variety of garden styles in such a diverse landscape and then make them "all sing together."  My only regret with this book is that the photographs lacked captions. There were some cases where I wanted to know more exactly what I was looking at.

I have had the privilege of visiting quite a few of the gardens featured in this book and they remain on my list of all-time favorite gardens.  No doubt you will see some of them featured in this blog in the months to come.  Many of these private gardens are open to the public on a regular basis through the Garden Conservancy's Open Days program and I would encourage you to visit them on these occasions if you have the opportunity. You can find the 2011 schedule for the opening of Connecticut gardens here.  In the meantime, pick up a copy of Private Gardens of Connecticut.  I think you'll really enjoy it!

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