Last year I missed a large part of the Andes Public Library’s Garden Tour, partly because I just lingered too long in each garden, enjoying the beauty of each of them, and partly because my poor sense of direction led me astray, and I was completely lost in the twists and turns of unfamiliar areas of Andes. This year, Leah and I travelled together again, as we did a year ago. I was the navigator while she concentrated on the driving. We decided to start from the end and work backwards, to be sure to see the gardens that we’d missed before. Crescent Hill is near my house and is the place Alan and I used to walk every day until the hill became too difficult and we had to find a flatter walk. That’s where Leah and I decided to start our tour.
Paula and George Montecalvo’s long driveway, lined with evergreens, leads to their vegetable garden and greenhouse. A lot of care goes into preparing the beds before they plant the vegetables that will go into the rich tomato sauce that I’ve seen Paula make and the other vegetables that she will can and store for the winter. Black landscape fabric covers the good soil, amended with compost that they’ve prepared. Silver landscape fabric covers the walking areas. Small plastic containers are submerged between the plants that are planted through the fabric to eliminate all weeds, and filled with beer, to attract slugs, who meet a beautiful demise, happily ignoring the vegetables.
Each time I visit their garden, I learn something new. The garlic scapes, which are forming right now, must be cut back to allow the strength to go into the bulbs and not into the seeds. When the bulbs are full, they are pulled and laid out on the ground to dry, unwashed, then they are hung in a cool, dry place, in bunches or the leaves are braided until ready to use. The scapes can be chopped for salad, cooking, or for beautiful table decorations.
The next garden on Crescent Hill was that of Mel Bellar, a landscape designer. His winding paths are lined with little yellow flowers that he propagates for customers’ gardens. Wooden constructions led us on walkways leading from one area to another of beautiful plantings. Mel seemed to know the name of every flower and I was hoping I could remember one to tell you about. Everything blended into a magnificent walking garden.
Gerry Murphy and Jacinto Jorge were nearby and that’s where we were headed. Jorge invited us in to see the house as well. Gerry is an interior designer who has a shop in The Commons in Margaretville. The house is decorated in a relaxed, country look that I love, with warm, earthy colors. The kitchen would make anyone love to cook and the bathroom is a dream. All over the house, the magnificent tile work and cabinetry, that Jacinto does, was in evidence, again in colors that brought the outside in. The gardens were lush with native plants and large terra cotta pots of tomatoes that you knew would be delectable. A chicken coop held chickens in colors that I’ve never seen before and Jacinto invited us to come back for eggs. Under the porch is the most wonderful shade garden. There are grape vines climbing on trellises, a coffee plant and a charming table with two chairs, fanned by the foliage and hidden from the heat of the sun, but still part of the garden.
Back on Route 28, our next stop was Bill and Eddie Piervincenzi’s fairytale house that always reminds me of a picture that I can remember in a book that I had as a child, of the story of Hansel and Gretel. It was not really a happy story and this was the witch’s house. When I told Eddie, she said that she did have a witch that came out on Halloween! Their house however, is warm, welcoming and surrounded by flowers. There is a large vegetable garden, chickens, horses and ponds to swim in. It is a fairy tale house but there’s no witch in this one. Bill and Eddie built it lovingly themselves, and it reflects both of them.
The last house we went to before the darkening clouds threatened to open up, was that of Nancy and Jack McShane and it was really a delight. Jack’s specialty is the hills and beyond, the pond and its creatures and the trees and animals living nearby. Nancy’s are the gardens near the house, which are planted with her artist’s eye. She utilizes branches from trees that were once living on their property but no longer exist, for clematis to climb on, and benches that once had legs but now can only hold beautiful pots of flowers, in their final stage. The stonework is the background for flowers everywhere. I don’t know where she finds the time to keep everything so perfectly beautiful.
We hated to leave the tour when we hadn’t even seen half of it. Some of the gardens, I remember from last year, some of them I’ve seen on visits, but some, I’ve never seen. I’m hoping they will be on the Garden Tour next year, when I’ll start with those that I missed and spend more time looking and less time talking. This surely was a spectacular event!