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Hidden Gardens of Amenia Re-Emerge

Mon Jul 4th, 2016

Geraniums adorn a stump at Hilltop Bed and Breakfast

After a hiatus of a year, damage due to weather, a death and the drop-out of a few of the gardeners, eight gardens were able to be proudly displayed as part of the ever-popular Hidden Gardens of Amenia tour.  The reception for the gardeners took place at Hilltop Bed and Breakfast, instead of at the home of the beloved George Fenn, a founding member of the garden club who recently passed away.

Don Walker and Paul Arcario of the Asian-themed Jade Garden described the damage they had from a straight line wind storm that snapped tall cherry and maple trees a few years ago, giving them an unexpected view of the mountain.  They have restored the garden which now looks better than ever and have bought more property next door.

Their original garden features hand-dug pools with koi fish, an oriental pavilion, Japanese maples, a bamboo grove and a rose garden and is built on a hillside overlooking what used to be Lake Amenia.  

Jade Garden streambed

This year they installed a new Japanese garden with a little tea house featuring a faux dry stream bed made of flat fish-scale stones with little bridges over them on their newly purchased land.  The garden has a refreshing retreat-like atmosphere with cooling hostas, stone fish motif bird baths and and elegant wooden fencing.  Their rose garden is filled with color as usual and many exciting planting discoveries can be found in unexpected places.  The garden can be viewed again on July 9th as part of the Garden Conservancy Tour.

Another new garden on the tour is at Emily Fuller’s Teeniepaw Cottage on Perry Corners Road.  Emily is a landscape painter and wanted to have a garden that was not too much work.  She installed plants that would multiply easily, such as azaleas, daylilies, butterfly bushes and rhododendrons to remind her of where she grew up in Laurel Hollow in Oyster Bay, Long Island near the Louis Comfort Tiffany estate.   

Emily Fuller in pink shirt in her garden

Interspersed between the formal plantings are vegetables, which have blooms of their own.  This was inspired by a friend from Maine had done the same thing.  A large bed of colorful perennials are dotted with small areas of mint, basil, scallions, squash, cucumbers and tomatoes.  The splashes of color and dramatic height of huge four-foot high plum poppies reflect Emily’s artistic taste.  

Vauxhall Garden in Smithfield has both shade and full sun flowers.  We ran into Diana King there, the original founder of the Amenia Garden Club and past president, who admired the multi-colored lilium lilies.  Dan Brown, retired architect owner, lovingly puts in four to six hours a day in its upkeep and it shows.

Red and White Dahlias in blue ceramic pot with swimming pool in background at Vauxhall

The Browns’ garden features a lovely trellis at the end of a pool area with purple clematis framing an area with wildflowers around red and white dahlias in a glazed ceramic blue pot.  Self-seeded annuals in the square garden below it are mixed colors of candytuft,  yellow calendula and forget-me-nots.

Diana King and Dan Brown discuss how to how to control lily leaf beetles

The Browns were generously giving away lamium, a ground cover with purple flowers and variegated leaves to any visitors who wanted them along with raspberries for the eating.  Children were thrilled by the opportunity.  

Barbara Agren of Smithfield Cottage posed for us with her black poodle, Chloë,  in front of the stunning view of the valley that can be seen from her property.  

“Monet would have loved my garden,” she exclaimed, as she told us of her years as director of couture at Saks Fifth Avenue and working with Ann Klein.  Some of her poofiest flowers were alliums on the far side of her house. She seems to enjoy a palette of pink and purple and features an array of cast iron swan sculptures on the stone wall.

Barbara Agren and Chloe with Smithfield Valley view

Array of allium in side garden

Sandy Johnson at Hilltop Bed and Breakfast in Amenia has created a lovely border garden on a hill, with all the challenges of streetside gardening.  

Border garden at Hilltop Bed and Breakfast

“When we started, there was only a bed of weeds.  We worked with designers from the Kent Greenhouse and they recommended plants.  Some did not make it.  But the ones that did were cat mint, hosta, lambs ear, huchera  butterfly bush, peonies and hydrangea.  We planted white verbena, fuschia geraniums and calibrachia inside the center of a tree stump that the town removed with stunning results.”

Kevin Cassone and Gretchen Hitselberger of the Amenia Garden Club, worked hard to re-organize a tour that everyone seemed to enjoy.  Ms. Fuller said that 35 people visited her garden.

Black swans at Smithfield Cottage