Garden Inspiration: Untermyer Park, Yonkers


‘GRANDEUR’ is not a word I pull out very often, but it certainly applies to Untermyer Park in Westchester County. Who knew? I didn’t know, until recently, that there’s a lavish, beautifully designed, meticulously maintained historic garden in Yonkers, on property once owned Samuel Untermyer, a prominent New York lawyer, and his wife Minnie. They bought a 99-room pile called Greystone, and the riverfront acreage surrounding it, from Samuel J. Tilden in 1899. The house is long gone and won’t be coming back, but the splendiferous gardens, happily, have.

In 1915, Untermyer hired William Welles Boswoth, a Beaux Arts-trained landscape designer, who proceeded to create a 3-1/2-acre walled garden based on the Indo-Persian ‘paradise garden’ model, with Neoclassical elements like a Corinthian temple with a mosaic floor, a dramatic flight of steps down to the river inspired by the Villa d’Este near Lake Como, and a Romantic folly, the Temple of Love, on a promontory overlooking the Hudson.

The park opened to the public about three years ago, after decades of neglect. The last weekend in October, I visited with my friend Mary-Liz Campbell, a Rye, NY-based landscape designer. Not only in trees, but in berry-full shrubs and bountiful container plantings, we found all the autumn color that seems to have gone missing in NYC this season.

IMG_0595 IMG_0583 IMG_0585 IMG_0586 IMG_0576 IMG_0577IMG_0581
IMG_0571 IMG_0573 IMG_0597  IMG_0562 IMG_0600 IMG_0610

A great deal has been accomplished in a few years, but there’s still lots of clearing and planting to be done in the outer reaches of the site. Go here, to Margaret Roach’s indispensable blog, A Way to Garden, for an in-depth interview with Timothy Tilghman, Untermyer’s first full-time gardener in 75 years (!)

Untermyer Park is open 7AM-sunset, year round.

Leaf Peeping in Brooklyn


SEEMS TO ME THE FALL COLORS — peaking late after an unseasonably warm October — are more brilliant than usual this year. Here in Brownstone Brooklyn, there’s no sense one needs to go up to Vermont or the Hudson Valley to be fully satisfied on that score. Above, Underhill Avenue in Prospect Heights. Below, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden — my favorite urban refuge –in its autumnal glory.








My Garden’s Winter Prep

THE ROOF GUTTERS ARE CLEARED of leaves, the air conditioner is in its winter blanket, the grill and porch furniture are put away. I’ve spent the better part of this past week at my Long Island cottage raking thick layers of fallen oak leaves  — there are more to come, I’m sure, but this is the bulk of them — off the paths and lawn and into piles in spots where I’m still trying to smother invasive weeds and ground cover. (I can’t believe that in my naive-gardener days two or three years ago, I used to bag them up and take them to the dump.)

All that remains to be done for my garden’s winter prep is to wrap some of the deer-vulnerable shrubs in burlap or plastic mesh (to see how I did that last year, go here), and give them one last anti-deer spray for good measure.

I came out here from the city last Sunday, after two weeks away and a superstorm named Sandy, to be greeted by leaves, leaves everywhere, and a goodly number of fallen branches. Sandy didn’t take down any trees, however — a testament, I like to think, to my good arborial management. I was also greeted, joyfully, by some good fall color, especially from a burning bush and Japanese maple that have been here a lot longer than my 3-1/2 years, and ornamental grasses in full plume.

I have not yet succeeded in renting my house year-round or for the winter season (click here for details), though my ad continues to run in the East Hampton Star. It’s a pretty soft rental market, and my efforts have been a bit soft too, as I still don’t have a closing date on the other, nearby house I’m in the process of buying. The good news there, though, is that I have a signed contract of sale with the seller, at long last :-) I expect it to happen before year’s end — perhaps not the most convenient time to buy an unheated, uninsulated house in the Northeast U.S., but so be it. The sooner the better.

My next post, I swear, will be the big reveal: interior photos of my new project, taken during an inspection a couple of months back, and some musings on what I might or might not do with it.

Random Thoughts of Fall


WELL, OCTOBER’S ALMOST OVER, and I owe Long Island an apology. I jumped the gun last week when I called its fall foliage show a “dud.” Last week, there wasn’t much in the way of color. But this week,  the woods behind my house are glinting gold in the late afternoon sun, and there’s even a smattering of red from the burning bush that strains toward my neighbors’ sunnier yard. Though not the glorious blaze of the Hudson Valley (why must I keep comparing?), the roads around here are a pleasure to drive these days. So sorry, Long Island, you’re very pretty in fall.

NYBG_Montauk Daisy_2

Then there are the Montauk daisies, above. There are stands of them everywhere and they are welcome indeed, to be flowering so abundantly in late October.

Today, feeling rural, I bought the Farmer’s Almanac; I needed something to read in parking court (they reduced my ticket from $60 to $30 just for showing up). Strange little book. Published in Lewiston, ME, since 1818 (there are two competing farmer’s almanacs; I bought the one with a Colonial homestead on the cover), it seems to appeal to old people on both left and right. It’s got ads for everything from organic fertilizers to air guns, plus knee braces, Depends, and various supplements and snake oils.

I’m glad to have the frost dates, gardening tips, and Moon calendar (I always like to know when the moon is in Aries, my sun sign, said to be “green light” days for making things happen), but the weather forecast for this three-day period in the Northeast (“rainy skies”) is already wrong.


I’ve been paint-happy lately. All the trim and moldings in my house, above, are now painted Benjamin Moore’s Sailors Sea Blue — a wonderful, easy-to-live with French blue.

Last seasonal observation for today. The Fall ’09 Hamptons Look (female version):

  • skinny jeans (most likely brown)
  • high boots (ditto)
  • long, loose sweater belted at the hip
  • long scarf around neck
  • sunglasses on head

I can do that!

Meet the Trees

1976124210_bcad233ef5BROOKLYN IS ABLAZE WITH FALL COLOR, and I’m jealous. As far as autumn’s glories go, the East End of Long Island is a dud. The native forest here is mostly oak, and oak just turns brown.

Not so in Columbia County, where brilliant yellow birches and red maples are coloring the hills right now (I was lucky enough to be there last weekend). And not so in Brooklyn, whose varied street trees can be positively stunning in October, especially in a wet year like this one.

Next Saturday, October 24, a Brooklyn blog, Sustainable Flatbush, is sponsoring the first-ever Fall Street Tree Walking Tour in Victorian Flatbush, an autumnal counterpart to its successful springtime walking tour.

Tour guides will be Tracey Hohman, a professional gardener, and Chris Kreussling, aka Flatbush Gardener, both neighborhood residents. They’ll lead you down Albemarle Road’s planted median, flanked by spectacular architecture and beautiful private gardens; ID the neighborhood’s trees, some of which are 100 years old; and point out the lasting impact of the great Brooklyn Tornado of August 2007 (why don’t I remember that?) Soon you’ll be able to recognize  Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweet Gum), a native with leaves of yellow and purple on the same tree, and many more.

A map with a complete list of trees is here.

There are two departures, at 11AM and 12 noon, both starting at Sacred Vibes Apothecary, 376 Argyle Road, just south of Cortelyou Road.

The 2-hour tour is FREE and takes place rain or shine.

Photo: Chris Kreussling, Flatbush Gardener