New Canaan garden featured in book
Published 3:40 pm, Thursday, September 1, 2011
According to her friend and neighbor, Dottie Main, Margo Parson has a "gorgeous garden" at her West Norwalk residence.
"There is always something in bloom," Main said.
The two women met last month at Norwalk's Lockwood-Matthews Mansion Museum to hear garden writer Jane Garmey share insights that she gleaned while putting together the newly published book, "Private Gardens of Connecticut."
A local garden, assembled by landscape architect Richard Bergmann at his home in downtown New Canaan, is included in this collection of exquisite private gardens found throughout the state.
Garmey said that all of the gardens chosen for publication were designed by the homeowners who, like Bergmann, were often first-time gardeners.
When Garmey moved to "a small, old Saltbox" in Falls Village 28 years ago, the only thing she knew about gardening was that in her native country of England, gardens were "the size of a postage stamp and covered in tarmac."
"I didn't understand the concept of a yard," she said.
Moving to Cornwall, where she and her husband continue to make their home, Garmey said that she "fell in love with gardens."
"There's a wealth of gardens in Connecticut, and they're relatively little known," she said.
In putting together this book, Garmey unearthed a variety of different types of gardens, including those landscaped with stone, floral, woodlands and around bodies of water.
She was fascinated by the ways that Connecticut gardeners tackled the challenges of the rocky terrain, woodchucks and other animals that eat and destroy plantings, and New England's fickle and inconsistent weather systems.
"We have snow in May and hail in August, and now we have mountain lions to contend with," Garmey said.
The Bergmann family's garden had already been featured in national magazines when Garmey sent her photographer John Hall to New Canaan to take some preliminary shots.
"Jane then wanted to come and take a look at the garden and have lunch with us," he said. "We really enjoyed it. Apparently, she liked our garden well enough to include it in the book."
Garmey, who is a contributor to the New York Times and also writes about cooking, was impressed with Bergmann's ability to cultivate the garden at a residence "in the middle of town."
"It's like a stage set," she said.
"There are wonderfully clipped trees and he broke up the space by raising levels on the side of the house."
The trunks of the crab apple trees are painted white, which is common in France, and the containers that hold the plants are wide enough to sit on.
"You have a striking visual creation," Garmey said. "I think it's brilliant."
Bergmann said that when he and his wife moved to the residence "there was nothing there."
"We slowly started working on the garden," Bergmann said. "My wife and I do all of the work ourselves."
And, because they love to travel, the Bergmanns are constantly discovering new elements to add to their home's exterior.
"We've been to a lot of places -- China, India, Japan -- and we are always looking at gardens," he said.
In addition to the Bergmann family's garden, Garmey also discussed the private retreats of prominent members of the fashion, design, arts and business communities, such as Oscar and Annette de la Renta, Bunny Williams, Robert Couturier, Lynden Miller, Edward Lee Cave and Anne Bass, gardens that have never been professionally photographed or seen by the public.
At the end of the lecture, co-sponsored by the New Canaan Preservation Alliance, Inc., Garmey signed copies of her book.
Parson and Main said that they enjoyed seeing all of the beautiful gardens presented by Garmey.
Parson said she would like to change the state flower to one of her favorite plants, the cleome, or spider plant.
"Every year I give the neighborhood kids seeds and tell them to plant them in their own yards," Parson said.