Visit to Wave Hill, a Hudson River estate garden in New York City


I traveled to New York City with my daughter on October 10 to see public gardens. On Saturday, our first full day in New York, a chilly rain didn’t keep us from visiting Wave Hill, a 28-acre estate garden in the Bronx with a million-dollar view of the Hudson River and the Palisades, sheer cliffs of exposed, vertically striated stone on the opposite shore.

Wave Hill had a succession of owners and a few famous tenants between its construction in 1843 and 1960, when it was deeded to the City of New York. Mark Twain leased the place from 1901 to 1903, and as a boy Theodore Roosevelt summered here with his family. Two houses and a conservatory remain today, along with gardens acclaimed for their horticultural artistry.


We took the train for the 30-minute ride from midtown out to the Bronx, and from there a Wave Hill shuttle took us to the garden. Away from the bustle of the streets of Manhattan, we found ourselves in a serene oasis, with the soft dripping of rain and birdsong in our ears instead of honking horns and whooshing subways. You enter to views of a sweeping lawn leading to a long, vine-draped pergola. The river and Palisades view just beyond was partly obscured by mist.


Let’s save the pergola garden and turn right toward the simply named Flower Garden, a formally arranged garden of exuberant, colorful plant combos, surrounded by a Chippendale-style cedar fence and arbors.


Tall grasses partly screen the view as you enter.


Blackberry lily, tall verbena, and blanketflower add to the fall scene.


Pink cosmos threads through the grasses.


A wide brick walk runs through the center of the garden, with rustic cedar arbors and benches bookending the space. An impressive conservatory overlooks the garden.


Turning around, you can see the river and Palisades through a window in the arbor.


Paralleling the brick walk is a narrow stone path along the perimeter. Chartreuse plants glow even on this misty morning.


Glancing over the fence you see the lawn, with pairs of the famous Wave Hill chairs inviting you to sit and enjoy the view — on drier days, anyway.


Looking across the center of the garden, you see the conservatory framed by four fastigiate trees in pots. The bronze mound in the center is oxalis.


Yes, oxalis! I tried to part the foliage in order to discover how the mound was created: tiered containers, or mounded soil, or just a monstrous single plant? (Couldn’t be!) But it was raining pretty steadily by now, and I couldn’t juggle camera, camera bag, and umbrella well enough to look. It remains a mystery.


Looking to the far end of the garden you see the other arbor. Evergreen shrubs add year-round structure.


Turning around, here’s the opposite view.


I enjoyed this rich, purple foliage accented by orange and peach sunset hues.


Bold dahlias stole the show.


Red berries on a yellowing, potted tree make a pretty fall scene too.


Peach dahlias complement the bronze oxalis mound.


It’s such a textural garden, invitingly touchable, with sophisticated color combos.


We took a quick peek inside the conservatory, but aside from a few tables of succulents it wasn’t that interesting. So let’s go back to the pergola overlooking the Hudson.


Packed with potted plants and hung with vines, the pergola is essentially a container garden on steroids.


My daughter, investigating a plant or a fallen leaf from the shelter of her umbrella


Tearing my eyes away from the pergola garden, I paused to admire the mist-shrouded view from a handsome stone balustrade.


A double stair leads to the lawn below…


…and to the Elliptical Garden, formerly the site of a swimming pool.


Twin golden pots mark the entry to this small garden.


Concrete benches offer contemplative places to rest.


I love the melancholy, going-to-seed splendor of the autumn garden.


There are wooded trails to explore below the Elliptical Garden, but they were muddy and overhung with dripping foliage, so we headed back to the balustrade stairs and the pergola.


Summer’s zinnias were still hanging on.


Ivy was hanging too.


Back in the main gardens I admired the fall color in this scene: burgundy foliage and purple beautyberries.


And we admired this cheerful vegetable garden too, planted along a vine-swagged, golden-yellow fence in the Paisley Bed, so named for its comma shape. The Paisley Bed is redone every year to new effect, so you won’t see the same design twice.

The Flower Garden and pergola views were gorgeous, but the best was yet to come. Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Wave Hill visit, which includes the dramatic Monocot Garden and pond, Mediterranean-style Dry Garden, and windswept Wild Garden.

For a look back at my 2-part tour of the High Line, click here.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Nonirrigated native plant garden of Lee Clippard is a foliage lover’s dream


Earlier this month I visited the East Austin garden of Lee Clippard, blogger at The Grackle, and his partner, John. The first fall rains had just arrived, following a relatively mild summer, so their foliage-centric garden of native plants was looking lush and green. I’d never have guessed, if Lee hadn’t told me, that he didn’t once irrigate his garden all summer, aside from a one-time spot watering of a wilting American beautyberry just off the front porch.


Smart plant choices make the no-water garden possible, although of course even these drought-tolerant natives must have water to get established. Once established though, the plants are on their own. Lee chucks the ones that don’t thrive and adds more of those that do.


You might recognize Lee’s garden from my book, Lawn Gone!; I profiled his garden in an early chapter. Lee screened the front garden with shade-tolerant foliage plants like palms, loquat, and Turk’s cap to give privacy and a sense of enclosure to a small gravel patio and to create green views from their windows.


Streetside, all that textural foliage makes for a secret-garden effect. What’s on the other side?


Entering the front garden you see a rectangular gravel patio edged with chopped limestone. A patio set used to sit here, but now there’s just a simple, wooden bench, very Zen.


A triangular stone sculpture sits in a soft patch of Texas sedge (Carex texensis) along one corner of the patio, framed by loquat and paleleaf yucca (Yucca pallida).


It’s a serene, inviting space framed by sedge and yuccas, with leafy shrubs along the perimeter screening the street from view. The stone path at right makes a friendly path for the mailman to cut through from the neighbor’s yard.


Lee gardens with a goal of attracting wildlife, with flowering prairie plants like coneflower where he has more sun along the driveway, and plenty of roosting and nesting places for birds, insects, and other beneficial wildlife.


He lets plants stand after they go to seed in order to provide food for birds. A large spineless prickly pear adds structure to this “wilder” section of the garden.


Around back, a wood-slat arbor and gate invite you into the back garden. Spanning the gap between house and detached garage, the arbor offers shade from the Death Star and enclosure for their dog. A lovely cut-stone path set in gravel draws the eye and foot into the space.


To the right, on the wall of the garage, a trough fountain with a small copper spout pours a thin stream of water that seems to cool the sizzle of a hot day.


Ahead, a grilling station is set up near the back door, which leads to the kitchen. Hanging from a corner of the eave, a rain chain directs rainwater, when it comes, to a bowl filled with colorful, egg-shaped river rocks.


Native horseherb (Calyptocarpus vialis), considered a weed by some, provides a low-maintenance, no-water groundcover.


I think Lee made these concrete bowls, which he uses as succulent planters and to hold pretty river rocks.


The stone path makes a right-angle turn behind the garage, leading to a gravel patio and, farther along, to an herb garden. Here at the corner, terracotta pots of cactus and succulents attract the eye…


…and soften the base of four cedar posts that support a “ceiling” of string lights around the gravel patio.


Lee and John inherited the mortared-brick Celtic knot with the house, but they enlarged the patio space around it to make more room for entertaining. It’s a beautiful focal point for their patio.


They made the 8-foot-long wooden bench themselves. It’s backed by a fringe of inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium).


Red, recycled-plastic Adirondacks add hot color.


The purple berries of American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) add plenty of rich color too.


Enjoy them while you can, before the mockingbirds find them!


The back of the garage is a place for Lee to showcase his potted-plant collection. He and John also use the wall (hung with a sheet, I assume) for showing outdoor movies with friends.


An insect hotel hangs from the corner of the house, part of Lee’s effort to attract bees and other beneficial bugs.


Behind the garage, Lee and John made a small, raised-bed herb garden. Anchoring the space is a signpost pointing to places that have special meaning to them. Wooden chaise lounges offer a place to catch a little sun, and a wooden-slat screen hides a view of the neighbor’s yard. In front of the screen, a tufted lawnette of Texas sedge (Carex texensis) makes an emerald groundcover.


We live in a big country, don’t we? A thousand miles, at least, whether you head for the East Coast or the West.


Pomegranates are ripening.


And lantana is blooming — more fall color that attracts butterflies.


And here’s another look at the Texas sedge lawnette.


I love that quilted look.


A metal grackle is a reminder that this is the home of The Grackle blog. If you haven’t ever read it, do. Lee’s posts are always thoughtful and beautifully photographed, with good information about wildlife and native-plant gardening and Tex-Zen design.

My thanks to Lee and John for sharing their inspiring waterwise garden with me again. Readers, if this has whetted your appetite for more, click for my spring 2012 visit to Lee’s garden. Also, see Lee and John discuss the design of their garden on Central Texas Gardener.

This is my October post for Foliage Follow-Up. I’d love to know what lovely leaves are making you happy in your October garden (or one you’ve visited). Please join me for Foliage Follow-Up, giving foliage plants their due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave your link to your Foliage Follow-Up post in a comment. I really appreciate it if you’ll also include a link to this post in your own post (sharing link love!). If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Black beautyberry is a dark beauty


American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is one of my favorite native shrubs for fall color, and I have two under the live oaks in my back garden that are loaded with bright purple berries. But sometimes you just need a little more drama, and black beautyberry (Callicarpa acuminata), also known as Mexican beautyberry, may be just the ticket.

I first saw it, in all its goth beauty (pictured above), at San Antonio Botanical Gardens in 2009.


Three years later I spotted one on tour at the Phillips Garden. Now I was on the hunt.


A week or so ago I was browsing at Green ‘n Growing nursery in Pflugerville (you know how that browsing goes), and to my delight they had 3 or 4 large black beautyberries for sale. I snapped one up and placed it in the shade next to one of the American beautyberries until the masons were finished building the walls. You can see how much darker the leaves and berries are on the black beautyberry (on the left), compared to the American beautyberry on the right.


I planted it in the lower garden on Friday, next to the new limestone steps. The berries look brighter in this picture, but they’re more of a wine-red purple than the American’s berries.


I hope to enjoy them a little longer before the mockingbirds find them.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.