We are truly blessed to live in a part of the country that has perhaps the densest concentration of really fine high level gardens in the world, certainly in this country. Northwest Connecticut, who knew? The Litchfield hills are the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains which run along the western border of Massachusetts and New York State. Our corner of this odd little rectangular state known mostly for pizza and mega-rich gold coast commuters is a gardener’s heaven climate-wise as well as people-wise. We have so many great gardens, garden writers and garden designers it’s almost embarrassing. But the crown that sits above it all is Hollister House, George Schoellkopf’s superlative creation around the 18th-century home he has inhabited for several decades. The parterre garden (The ‘Gray Garden’, officially) seen above is what most visitors first encounter as they walk around the front of the house from the sign in area in the parking lot to enter the garden. This next image is how it looks as you step a little further in, and you drink in the panorama of George’s creation. (Granted, the first image was made in June & the one below in August, so the plant succession has changed, but you get the idea.)
“A classic garden in the English manner…informally planted in generous abundance” is how George describes his garden. Considering the wealth of plant material, the breadth of the variety and the wonder of the landscape, this garden is for me most impressive for the peaceful, relaxing effect it has on its visitors. Certainly whenever I visit all cares and stresses melt away. It seems to have the same effect on everyone else I have been there with, and I am fortunate to get there plenty.Hollister House is one of the select few American gardens which the Garden Conservancy has noted for preservation. Stephen Orr, the Garden Editor for Martha Stewart Living, and noted writer about gardens, called Hollister House “One of the best private gardens in the United States” recently at the third biennial Hollister House Garden Study Weekend, a three day orgy of gardening with a symposium (imagine the likes of Page Dickey, Marco Polo Stefano, Edwina von Gall, William Cullina and Bill Thomas, among others, as your speakers for one day!), open garden tours, a rare plant sale, and of course, plenty of freshly prepared local food. Come visit! If you live within an hour in any direction from New York City, or west of Boston, it is a day trip for you. You can combine it with other great local gardens on one of the many open days, or with other local attractions. If you live further away, there is plenty in this area and beyond to make the trip worthwhile. I look forward to seeing you there!