MY WASBAND LIVES on a steep hill (Turkey Hill, in fact) on a back road in northern Dutchess County, deep in the Hudson River Valley. I need to reach into my bag of travel-writer cliches to describe the property; it’s nothing short of spectacular. Breath-taking, even.
Long-ago owners planted Japanese maples, dogwoods, and several fruit trees, as well as privet, peony, and lilac hedges. When I gardened there in the early 2000s, I helped establish a few different perennial beds: an ‘island bed’ in the middle of the bowl-shaped front lawn, above, a shady bed, a square bed around a birdbath, and others.
The old hedges, probably dating from around the time the house was built in the 1930s, give the property structure: two 50+-foot-long privet hedges on either side of a long gravel driveway, rows of huge old lilacs (now in fragrant bloom), and peonies running alongside a mysterious concrete rectangle that may once have been a greenhouse foundation, now filled with gravel.
There’s an old outhouse by a stream, now used for storage, and two new sheds Jeff built in rustic style: an open lean-to for firewood, and a closed shed for his prized John Deere tractor. He has gone on to create other planting areas as well: a shady hill for dwarf Japanese maples, achieved by clearing an outcropping of rock (one of many on the property left by a retreating glacier at the end of the last Ice Age); another steeply sloping garden in a sunny area behind the cottage (called the Five Dollar Garden, because nothing in it cost more than that); and four raised beds in a flat open area at the top of the hill, where he experiments with veggies and flowers for cutting.
I’ve been documenting the evolution of this property for 10 years now. Here is the latest batch of photos, taken this past week.