of gardening, she would turn to garden writing as a source of inspiration. She researched and edited The Writer in The Garden (Algonquin
Books, 1999), an anthology of garden writing over the last 100 years.
Since then, she has published four more books on gardening, the latest, Private Gardens of the Hudson Valley (Monacelli Press, 2013), which
celebrates 26 stunning private gardens in New York’s Hudson Valley,
was published in October.
“Garden writing is not a how-to book,” says Garmey. “It is writ-
ing about the owner’s personality and the making of the garden. Show-
ing people someone’s garden is more useful and interesting than tell-
ing them how to plant perennial beds. I like to share it with people,
and it inspires people.”
The front of Garmey’s house is close to the road, so most of the
2½ acres as well as the bordering conservation land are behind the
house. “You can stand right near the greenhouse or sit on the porch,”
says Garmey, “and appreciate the beauty of the garden spaces and the
expanse of the landscape.”
Creating that took time. After all, this is a weekend house and
Garmey does most of the work herself. “There is always change in a gar-
den,” she says, “things to pull out that don’t work and other plants to
add. One learns from one’s mistakes, and I made a lot of mistakes.” She
points to some straggly dianthus in the parterre, which she will replace
with heartier lavender. A euonymus hedge isn’t growing the way she’d
like, so she’ll dig that up and replace it with a more suitable species.
Away from the house, Garmey planted two large herbaceous and
perennial beds along a stone wall, creating another large garden room.
At its center are four weeping apple trees, given to her by a friend who
no longer wanted them. Garmey put them to great use, planting them
symmetrically around a large turn-of-the-19th-century stone urn.
“I learned so much about gardening by writing about gardens,”
says Garmey, who also authored Private Gardens of Connecticut (Mona-
celli Press, 2010). “I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two camps
of gardeners. The Plants People who are interested in rare plants are in
one camp. The other believes that the design of the garden is paramount.
I’m in that camp. For example, my herbaceous border is a tough-love
garden. There aren’t any rare plants in it that no one else can grow.”
A structural, hand-trimmed hornbeam hedge links the main house
to the barn. By the screened porch, Garmey’s village of birdhouses
set on tall poles seems to sprout from the large showy leaves of a thick
planting of petasites. “I loved the idea of the birdhouses,” she says,
“and thought it would be so much fun to have something coming out
of the petasites.” One house came from eBay. Another, a triangular
model, is a replica of one she saw outside London made by an appren-
tice to Ian Ingersoll, a West Cornwall cabinetmaker. And there is one
she bought at Gracie Finn in Boston’s South End.
Like most gardeners, Garmey is constantly looking forward,
inspired by visiting a garden or taken by a display of plants she longs
to try in her own yard. Still, she says, “I don’t want to
add to my garden, as I would like to simplify it and have
less work rather than more.” Having said that, she adds,
“I’m already plotting to do a long rill and to do a bed of
high grasses and a pond. So, as you can see, I’m not very disciplined,
and I have an irritating design gene in my head. I’m always planning
improvements to the garden.”