A black fence

This past fall I finally put in a deer fence and added a gate to my small garden. I have a white Victorian house and after much thought decided to paint the fence and gate BLACK. In fact, “Panther Black.” It was kind of daring.

I painted it in the early spring before any flowers or leaves on the trees. It was a surprise to some, but I liked it, but now that the peonies are out and the garden is in full force, I think it’s a marvel.



First winter storm

winter gardening

First winter storm


The first winter storm has arrived. The garden has been swept clean of leaves and we’re ready for the long, cold months ahead. The winter garden is very beautiful with just the first dusting of snow. It’s at this time that we see clearly how the evergreens and fence give the garden its structure. By mid-summer they will have faded into the background hidden by lush ferns, grasses, shrubs, and trees.

It’s a small garden and I had endless design possibilities. I could have created a formal English style garden or even modeled the backyard on my favorite Japanese designer Mirei Shigemori’s checkerboard moss garden. But the essence of this garden is contemplative. It should feel as though one were walking on a path to a rustic retreat in the mountains.

Mirei Shigemori moss garden in Japan

Mirei Shigemori’s moss garden in Japan

A formal English garden which would have suited my backyard but changed the entire feeling of the space.

A formal English garden would fit in my backyard but the style would change the entire feeling of the space.



Deconstruction of a tea house

This is a fascinating deconstruction of a tea house. It’s all glass, whereas tea houses of the past were dark, enclosed spaces where you could hardly see. Light and shadow were paramount aspects. But here – all is revealed.

I would love to have tea in this space. Moving through the Roji one is certainly transformed.

Glass tea house

This glass tea house mondrian’ by Japanese artist Hiroshi Sugimoto unites wood, glass and water as a pavilion, holding the traditional Japanese tea ceremony within its transparent wall. Read more about this tea house inspired by Venetian Glass.



Hedges and fences form the bones of a garden and create rooms with distinct styles. What starts out as a blank slate now has a frame that can be filled. One of the first things I did in my garden was to plant thirty feet of privet along my property line to enclose the flower garden and give me a sense of a “secret garden”, a walled place set apart from my neighbors.

The most magnificent privet I”ve ever seen are grown in the Hampton”s of New York and used everywhere. Here”s a typical, perfectly manicured hedge that screens a house.


This hedge must be at least twenty feet high – if not more.

“How do they get that tall and so beautifully sculpted?”

That”s been my question ever since I planted my little, two foot high shrubs ten years ago. Well, it turns out that here in the Hudson Valley it”s not so easy. There”s not enough sun, or there”s not enough “something” to make the Privet take off like they do in Long Island.

Pruning is difficult. Most people will get their electric pruners out and just top the growth, which creates more density, but in our case that would mean keeping the privet to about three feet tall; we wanted them much higher! Over the years I”ve hand pruned the hedge making sure that the top is thinner than the bottom like the diagram on the right. It needs to have the shape of a modified pyramid.

goodbad2 I”ve also hand clipped long straggly stems in the middle of the hedge that don”t have growth on the center and only leaf out on top where there”s enough light. It”s tricky. The more you prune, the bushier the growth as you can see from the diagram on the far left , but you loose that undergrowth that makes such a perfect hedge.

But finally after ten years, my Privet has taken off and responded to my selective pruning. Now my problem is how to get to the top branches. I get on a ladder and have a long hand clipper, but it”s an arduous task and I can”t reach the top. I”m not complaining though! I”m thrilled they”re so high.


My Privet hedge has gotten so tall I can”t prune the tops. But this
is a wonderful year for this hedge. It”s finally come into it”s own!


Not as manicured as the Hampton”s hedges, not as perfect, but I”m thrlled.

So now I have to figure out how to get to the top. I asked my neighbor who has a lawn business to help out, but we”re not in the Hamptons. She has two guys on a ladder, who “might” be able to reach. Take a look at what the pros do…Yikes!


this is how they did it



One of my favorite gardens only minutes away

blithwood garden in winter

Blithwood is the ultimate romantic, hidden garden on the banks of the Hudson River with views of the Catskill Mountains beyond. The Italianate garden is walled on three sides with a small reflecting pool in the center.

blithewood The garden sits below a turn-of-the-century mansion overlooking the Hudson River. The land dates back to a vast track bought from the Indians in 1680. The grounds began their metamorphosis from untamed woods into a carefully landscaped estate in the 1830s, when Robert Donaldson of North Carolina acquired the property and gave it the name Blithewood. He commissioned Andrew Jackson Downing, one of the foremost landscape artists of the day, to design the grounds.

I first came upon this house in the mid 70’s when, like many other estates along the Hudson, it was abandoned. I have an old photo of the main door with OM painted across it.

Since then it’s come into the possession of Bard College which has restored the house and sunken garden below it. Climbing vines, roses, pergola covered with wisteria, boxwood and grasses create a place of tranquil beauty.



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