Garden Conservancy Open Days

I interrupt our summer break with a note on a weekend activity that is completely civilized, highly enjoyable and free (mostly) of discussions on current events.

Tour Private Gardens
courtesy of the
Garden Conservancy Open Days Program

Is there a better way to spend a high summer's afternoon?

Follow a meandering garden path

and gaze at the garden's envy-inducing home?

Why, yes. I love a Maine coast cliff walk followed by a lobster roll and a glass of chilly white. When that option is not on the table, I will happily tour a private garden.

The west end of the garden on Garvin Hill.

Pink hydrangea!

Across the US and all summer long, the Garden Conservancy invites the public to view America's best private gardens. I am looking forward to several Boston area gardens this weekend.

Click 2016 Open Days for the national schedule, there is sure to be one near you.

Private gardens are works of love, and in some cases, decades of care, like the Hunnewell in Wellesley. Open this Saturday for the first time, four generations of Hunnewells have stewarded this estate garden. It is supposed to have the best topiary north of Ladew Gardens. 

It looked like this in 1909.

Click this link for info on visiting The Hunnewell Gardens.
Photo via The Garden Conservancy site.

The homes these gardens adorn are not on the tour, but some are architectural gems well worth seeing, if only from the exterior. So if you are interested in design, architectural and landscape, these garden tours are an exceptional opportunity.

Like last summer's tour of the garden on Garvin Hill in Chichester, NH., a hilltop compound home to a multi-generational clan. Except for the above of Hunnewell and the one below of Bonair, all pics in this post are of Garvin Hill and taken by the author.

The elder generation lives in the historic main house, built in the early 1800s.

The front of the property is all turf, which at first was a little disconcerting (what, no garden?). Until we realized this is the view from the front walk. Holy Cow! The gardener (homeowner) told us Mt. Washington is visible on clear days. No question then as to why the gardens are in the rear.

There is an idyllic expanse of green between the main house and

I wonder how old these trees are? What a fabulous setting for afternoon tea. Or a picnic.
The white structure on the left is an addition to the main house done in the early 1900s.

the pool house.

The next generations live in a modern home on the far side of the pool house, as seen here from the garden.

The extensive gardens in the rear stretch all across the property.

It was a privilege to tour The Garvin Hill garden. Well worth the drive up to New Hampshire.

Our plan for this Saturday is to tour Hunnewell first since it's never been open before. If I avoid a meltdown (the forecast is in the 90s and humid, of course) we will continue on to

Photo via The Garden Conservancy site.

Bonair, a five-acre Italianate garden in Sherborn.

Of course, not everyone is a garden enthusiast crazy enough to venture out in the midday sun. But I'm sure you'll have a great weekend anyway!

Thanks for reading,
Linda Pakravan


A Library Project

Hope you had a great weekend.

Snow in April. Forecast for today is 3 to 6 inches. 

Will it still snow after the ice caps melt?

On to my real topic.

Thomas Jayne via Architectural Digest.

The purist approach to a bookcase is books only. Nothing else.

 Purists often follow the 'more is better' philosophy.

This appears to cut across time, personal style and architecture.

Karl Lagerfeld's library in his Paris apartment. The Observer.
"Books are a hard-bound drug with no danger of an overdose. I am the happy victim of books." Karl Lagerfeld

I recently had the pleasure of working on a library for a happy camper from Books Only Camp.

My Sister. But she was willing to decamp. A little.

Sister appreciated the look of my library guest room. But this is too far out of camp.

And not enough books.

The childhood books side of the library/bookcase.

Her home is a sweet 1920s cottage with intact Craftsman style period millwork.

During a prior visit, I consulted on the bookcasing design for Sister's sunroom to library conversion. Scale and proportions, and in the Craftsman tradition, a minimum of ornament were all important considerations. 

It was constructed of solid oak with a next to perfect match of the existing stain. The library looks like it has always been there. Kudos to the carpenter.

On my last visit, I worked on lighting, organizing and styling the new library.

Respecting Sister's comfort with a minor disencampment, I limited the styling to the window sill and the center column of shelves.

I took the fern and framed prints from elsewhere in the house.

With big windows on three walls, the library is flooded with light. The new lamps, our only purchase, shed a pleasant glow after sunset. It is sufficient for a quiet read in the vintage rattan chairs.

The lamps were our only purchase.
Polished concrete with a linen shade. Nice aged bronze hardware. 

The pots and the statuary were tucked away in the dining room's china cabinets. Placing them front and center allows us to see and appreciate them.

The sweet fawn and cherubic children are by Mabel L. Torrey*. Sister has ties to Chicago and Iowa where the Torreys (both Mr and Mrs were sculptors) worked and lived. "Jerry" the little boy on the left, is the spitting image of Sister's son, my nephew (when he was a little boy).

Design tip: group things in uneven numbers. 
But don't be afraid to break this rule!
 I started with one little bust on the right but that made the left side too heavy.
The pair acts as one and balances the whole.

Porcelain and pottery on the shelf below the Torrey's.

After sister returned from a hard day at the office and approved my work,
I asked her where she acquired the nice covered celadon pot?
From you! she replied. My memory sucks.

Design tip: it's OK to mix the refined with the rustic. It adds depth and texture. Shows we're human not museum curators.

However, I like discipline in theme and display. Like Sister's porcelain and pottery in a classic group of uneven numbers.

To the right of the statues and porcelains, children's books are within easy reach.

On the left, I went for color, pleasing dustjackets and art books.

The special interest sections are housed in two tall cases flanking the big window.

Vintage garden books.

Latinorum librorum copia. (No big surprise some languages are dead.)

 And weighty botanical tomes on the bottom shelf.

Baskets on the floor corral the puzzles and pop-up books. This freed up shelf space and put these items right where a toddler would find them.

A goal for this library was a comfortable room evocative of an earlier, less worrisome and less hurried time before cell phones and iPads.

A room for Sister to enjoy a good read with her grandson. Unwind with a glass of wine after a long day at the office. Enjoy the garden view.

On my next visit, I'll do the two cases opposite the window wall. And recover the chair cushions in kitty proof UltraSuede.

In reality, the cats own the house. 

In the meantime, we're working long distance on the windows.

Where are you on the bookcase scale? Books only? Some other stuff? Lots of stuff and not so many books?

Thanks for reading,
Linda Pakravan

*Mabel Torrey's Wynken Blynken and Nod, Wellsboro, PA. Denver is home to the original marble version.

photo by Eddie Nyul