Anomalous April


View of the Hudson River and Catskills from Montgomery Place

THIS APRIL IS A STRANGE ONE in the Hudson Valley. The forsythia is not quite finished, which is normal for the time of year, but the lilacs are already in full bloom; ordinarily that doesn’t happen until mid-May. Forsythia and lilacs simultaneously? Weird.

Things are generally much greener than they ought to be. Loomis Creek Nursery’s e-mail newsletter says  the growing season is at least two weeks ahead, due to unseasonably warm weather early in the month, and yesterday at Montgomery Place, the romantic Hudson River estate whose gardens I popped over to see, I overheard the woman who runs their farm stand saying this is the earliest spring since 1945. I believe it.


Montgomery Place, designed by A.J. Davis in the mid-19th century, is actually rather unpretentious, of modest size, with a grand open-air verandah


I just wonder what will happen from here on. Will the lilacs stay in bloom longer than usual while the calendar catches up, or fade and be gone by Mother’s Day? Will the peonies be out in May instead of June, and the day lilies in June rather than July? Remains to be seen, I guess.


Above and below, the gardens at Montgomery Place were designed in the 1920s and ’30s. The brick pathways between beds have delightful scalloped edges.


For my purposes, the season being a bit ahead is not a bad thing. I’m up here to divide perennials from the Dutchess County property where I gardened for several years. Dividing perennials has never been my favorite thing, but this year it’s imperative, both because I have lots of bare dirt to fill at my new place on Long Island, and because certain things, like threadleaf coreopsis and rudbeckia (black-eyed susans to lay folks) have been getting out of control and taking over the central island bed, below (as it looked last September).


I spent most of Saturday digging, and amassed a huge number of pots filled with catmint, lamb’s ear, coreopsis, astilbe, cimicifuga, mint, epimedium, and more. In the end, I took only a small amount of rudbeckia because it is very late to show, even this year, and I wasn’t sure what was what.

Add to that a bunch of stuff from a local couple who sell fresh eggs and potted-up plants from their own garden, for a relative pittance: a kerria japonica bush, a viburnum, bee balm, obedient plant, iris tubers, more astilbes.


Now the big question is, how much can I get in my car?

10 thoughts on “Anomalous April

  1. Ha! As I read your post, I started wondering if there was going to be a procession of trucks and cars heading back to the South Fork with your divided bounty! Wonderful how one garden is helping to germinate the new one.

  2. Where there is a will, there is a way! I hope someone takes a photo of you in your Honda with all the plants. Good work, woman!!

  3. Wow, the ambition! I’m starting to realize that you’re a serious gardener. Do you have any pictures of your gardens in Brooklyn?

  4. Again, you knocked yourself out!

    Haven’t been to Montgomery Place in ages. Your shot from the veranda of the Hudson is desktop-worthy! It’s Montgomery Place graced by those incredible 200 year old locust trees on the drive from the road to the house?

    Anyway, I’ll add my 2-cents to the clamor over this sped up season (which, frankly, I find very scary): we have ROSES in Brooklyn! Can you believe it?! I notice three open yesterday…and I’m not talking about some early Harrison’s Yellow. Plus, the lilac has already been and is on its way out…hhh…It was in full bloom by April 15th. It’s all a bit disturbing to say the least.

  5. I’m with you, BG. I distrust ‘unseasonable’ weather, even if it’s pleasant. Yes, Montgomery Place started as an arboretum, apparently, 200 years ago. There are sycamores, black locust, and tulip poplars with gnarly bark like those trees in ‘Lord of the Rings’ – they look almost as if they’re going to talk to you in a deep bass voice. I took pictures of course, enough for a separate blog post.

  6. Thanks! And another wow. Great yards – love the hostas and I’m a huge fan of hydrangeas. Though they’ve always been finicky for me.

  7. Loved reading this post. I went to Montgomery Place last year for the first time, and had such a lovely time. To be able to lay out a blanket and picnic under the dappled sunlight of the trees is my idea of paradise. The gardens are oh so charming and the “secret” waterfall is just magical. I also found it so inspiring that the original owner Janet Livingston Montgomery pursued her dream to build a beautiful estate and gardens even after the death of her husband during the Battle of Quebec. Considering the times it really is an inspiring story.

  8. Welcome, Deirdre. Thanks for taking the time to comment and adding to the Montgomery Place story!

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