Untermyer Gardens is a gem atop the hills of Yonkers. How do I even begin to describe the magnitude of this once-glorious estate? Well, let’s start with some good reading.
The New York Times ran a piece last July about the garden, which I happened to be reading in Minnesota, and decided after putting the paper down that I needed to plan a visit. Here’s that article.
It’s a story of wealth and grandeur. A New York lawyer made the first million dollar settlement in America, and built a palatial Persian walled garden with an amphitheater, temples, pools, and glorious vistas across the Hudson to the Palisades.
Having now visited a year later, I want to come back and witness the changes that will unfold as momentum builds and resources (hopefully) become available.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden - in July with friends with babies
I always visit gardens in the winter, when I seem to have more time and energy for exploration. Having been to BBG more than three times in Januaries and Februaries past, I made a point of visiting this month. And what a lot of surprises and changes I found since those cold winter months.
The green roof was more alive this time, and it was a delight to see one of my favorites - purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea) - amongst the grasses. The hillside facing the roof has filled in with cascading sedges, softening the amphitheater-like steps and benches. Downhill, the Rose Garden was alive and full of color and texture. Enticing you into the garden were garden phlox of all colors, fragrant beebalm, towering lilies, clary sage, coneflowers, verbena, trailing nasturtiums, and Mexican feather grass (Stipa tennuissima), to name a few….
The new-ish Herb Garden was busting with espaliered fruit trees, drooping grape vines, waves of squashes undulating through kale and sunflowers, accented by spiky artichokes.
Other new things since my last visit: Sandy Remix - an installation using trees felled by Superstorm Sandy and resembling a tornado-like nest. There also seemed to be some renovations to both the Shakespeare and Fragrant Gardens. Though the fragrant honeysuckle had long since bloomed on the archway between the two gardens, my memories of winter remain full of that heady scent. The heat got the better of me this visit, and we all left sweating and thirsty.
On a recent trip back, some of my favorite sites: Minnehaha Creek, cottonwood trees, alders, and willows. Catalpas and white wild indigo in bloom. Spiderwort the only color in the early prairie and Juneberries ripe and worth gorging over. The water was high, the air was cool, and life was lush.
Yesterday was the annual symposium of old roses at the Wyck Historic House and Garden, and the roses were just beginning their show. Located on an unassuming lot in Germantown, Wyck has the oldest and least pretentious rose garden in the United States, still in its original plan.
On my way into the garden, I was stopped first by the the dainty old fashioned blooms of a mockorange spilling over the fence, and then a sweet pink climber peaking through the posts. Within the fence, rugosa roses bloomed sweetly and buzzed with honey bees, while elsewhere in the garden bloomed Rose de Rescht and the double cinnamon rose (Rosa cinnamomea f. plena). The rest of the roses were ready to burst from their swollen buds.
The real show stopper of the day was the Scotch rose, Rosa spinosissima, with its multitude of fragrant, single white petals held closely atop cascading canes of small green leaves.
The symposium closed with glasses of champagne and free roses, one being a rooted cutting from the Scotch rose, which I happily tucked away while sipping my bubbly and admiring the roses one last time.