A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Bringing in the Light: Late Fall in the Wild Garden

Wave Hill gardener Gelene Scarborough’s gardening career got its start at Wave Hill back in 1997 when she was one of the two Nally Interns that year. In 1999, she became a full-time gardener here. Like many of our gardeners, Gelene came to horticulture with a background outside the field: Her combined degree in art history and painting from Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, led to a summer painting in Samos, Greece and a semester in Paris through the Parsons School of Design program there.

I started reworking this area of the Wild Garden four or five years ago, when we removed a few of the older junipers that were losing their bottom layers and planted a few new ones to replace them. The junipers are a crucial screen from the areas below and are an essential factor in creating privacy for the seating area, and as they outgrow their purpose here need to be replaced. Rather than making a drastic change all at once, I just took out a few that year.Gelene-working-in-garden

At the same time, I had also planted a couple of Cercis canadensis ‘Texas White’ redbuds to add to the one which had been originally planted by Wave Hill gardeners John Emmanuel and Kevin Bost in the late 1990s, but this year I could see that the Cercis and the new junipers were competing for light. One of the two would have to go. So we took out the redbuds: their foliage was overwhelming the area behind the bench—and producing too much shade. We need less deciduous growth and more sun for evergreens like the juniper to flourish here. (If redbuds are one of your favorites, there still are some on the property. Check out the front of Glyndor Gallery.)

Having more light now also means that more kinds of plants will thrive so that we can have more interesting perennials surrounding the paved area—woodland ephemerals, for instance, and other shade-loving perennials, like the pretty hellebore (Helleborus niger ‘HGC Josef Lemper’ PP 15,615) shown here.Hellebores

Another change was to plant Aucuba longifolia behind the bench. Its simple lines and dark green foliage will fill in between the junipers without competing for light, providing a quiet screen for the greenhouse and other areas below this point in the Wild Garden. These were divisions from a group that we have had planted for many years by the service gate on West 252 Street.

We were also fortunate enough to have received a gift this fall from another friend of the garden, Lois Himes. Lois was a gardener for Harold Epstein, a great plantsman and also someone who was an early supporter of Wave Hill. He was one of the first Americans to introduce Epimediums to the U.S. from their native Japan. Lois’s gift is a beautiful Enkianthus campanulatis var. sikokianum. Already 30 years old, it’s been planted to the right of the circle, providing additional screening and seasonal interest.

This corner is one of my favorite spaces in the Wild Gardenthe-netta-corner.

The step down to the seating area, surrounded by greenery, makes it feel quiet and secluded from the rest of the garden. Many of us think of it informally as the “Netta Lockwood Circle,” in memory of a wonderful woman and close friend of Marco Polo Stufano, Wave Hill’s first Director of Horticulture. She was a great supporter of the garden during its early years. She was also a wonderful plantsperson herself, known at the Philadelphia Flower Show for her great displays of forced clematis. To honor her, Marco sent his design of the clematis to a mosaicist in Italy who created it and shipped it back, where it was embedded into the center of the brick paved circle. clematisI was very fortunate to have had the chance to meet her briefly a few times and to have seen her wonderful garden once before she died. I am touched by her story and by what Marco did to commemorate her presence, and so I want the plantings in this area to do justice to the original intent for the space.

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