F.W. Vanderbilt Garden Association Celebrating 30th Anniversary

Contributed by Virginia Condon, F.W. Vanderbilt Garden Association

HVGA.Vanderbilt OLD hot house

Photo from gardeners collection shows original garden (pre-1938), including hot houses.

HVGA.Vanderbilt NEW flowers

Upper annual beds are planted by F.W. Vanderbilt Garden Association volunteers

We are very excited to be celebrating our 30th year in the garden.

Fredrick W. Vanderbilt died in 1938. Two years later, FDR persuaded the Vanderbilt heir to donate the property to the Federal Government.  The country went to war soon after and there were no funds or plans to replace the garden beds. Soon weeds and brush took over the garden beds and vines choked the arbors and crumbling walls. In 1981 a government grant allowed the National Park Service to complete the restoration of the walls and structures, but there were no plans to replace the gardens.

HVGA.Vanderbilt OLD reflecting pool 2

Reflecting pool before restoration

In 1984, the Fredrick W. Vanderbilt Garden Association was founded by three Hyde Park women, Marion Asher, Louise Martin and Marty Stuart, with the purpose of rehabilitating the gardens. The rehabilitation began in the fall of 1984, with the cutting out and preparation of the upper and lower annual beds. The following spring, the beds were planted with the same plant varieties that Mr. Vanderbilt’s gardeners had used originally.  The Cherry Walk and Pool Garden were planted with perennials in 1986.  The following year, the rose garden terraces were planted.

HVGA.Vanderbilt OLD per3

HVGA.Vanderbilt NEW reflecting pool 2

New reflecting pool with “Barefoot Kate” and perennial beds

HVGA.Vanderbilt OLD rose pergola

Rose Pergola overgrown with grass and weeds, before FWVGA

More recently, the Boy Dolphin fountain, in the lower garden was restored and the rose beds were replanted. We are now in the process of completing their metal edging, and the Cherry Walk is being restored to its historic layout. 

HVGA.Vanderbilt NEW rose gardenRenovated Rose Garden

HVGA.Vanderbilt NEW pergola

 The Cherry Walk, renovated, but prior to further restoration completed recently.

DSC_0027The Fredrick W. Vanderbilt Garden Association is a volunteer, not-for-profit organization, dedicated to the rehabilitation and maintenance of the garden. Funds are raised by the organization, through fund-raising events and contributions from individuals and businesses.  

HVGA.VanderbiltToursOn weekends from April through October there are Greeters at the garden gate to welcome visitors and provide them with brochures for a self guided tour and the toolhouse is open so visitors can view photographs from the Vanderbilt era and albums of the Association’s work over the years. Our trained Interpreters offer free guided tours of the gardens on the third Sunday of the month from 1-4pm.

U P C O M I N G   E V E N T S

10665250_10152308906522073_5227154301455265439_nFall Festival Plant Sale
Saturday, October 4, 2014, 9am-4PM, rain or shine
Taking place on the lawn next to the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site parking lot. No entrance fee to the grounds. Among the items featured for sale will be hardy mums, asters, flowering kale & cabbage, ornamental peppers, perennials for fall planting, and more!

HVGC.VanderbiltBGuided Garden Tour
Sunday, October 19th, 1pm-4pm
FREE! Visitors should park in the Visitor Center parking lot, and walk down the gravel path from the Mansion to the gardens. 

There is always a need for garden lovers, whether it is working in the garden, greeting on the weekends, helping with fund-raising or donating.  If any of these appeal to you please visit our website for more information.

F.W. Vanderbilt Garden Association
P.O. Box 239, Hyde Park, New York 12538
info@vanderbiltgarden.org  | Follow on Facebook

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Garden Visit: The Hyland/Wente Garden


The fantastic garden of Jack Hyland and Larry Wente was recently open to the public as part of the Garden Conservancy Open Days program on August 16th, 2014, and a carload of HVGA members had a wonderful time visiting!


Exuberant plantings, lovely vistas, wonderful company and warmly welcoming garden hosts made for one of my favorite Open Days yet.


Talk about dynamic duos – Jack Hyland (pictured) designed the garden and his partner, architect Larry Wente, designed the contemporary barn-like home. Both were on hand to welcome guests, answer questions, and guide us through the house to the gardens. Jack told us this is the best year yet for the Verbena garden, seen behind him in the above photo.


A wall to the left of the front door hides the entrance to a secret garden…a small side entry with narrow path that was packed with vibrant flowers and foliage plants – fun!


Late summer favorites like Joe-Pye weed and the rust-colored, faded flowers of Filipendula rubra stand out in front of sky high tuteurs covered in dark-leaved Purple Hyacinth Bean.


The pool planting featured another simple and fantastic plant combo: Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia sp.), Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemem muticum) and a switch grass (Panicum sp.) Yes – you too can have this at home, gardeners!

DSC_0141Hedges along the garden path hid the compost bins behind, cleverly incorporating them into the overall garden design.


This shady garden room of green and gold foliage featured a rill, complete with goldfish.

DSC_0177Many thanks to our garden hosts for opening their home and gardens. We were wowed.

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The Garden Conservancy Open Days season is not over just yet! You can still visit private gardens in the area on the following days:
- September 20th in Dutchess/Columbia County (Lynden Miller’s nearby Litchfield, CT garden is also open on this date)
- October 18th in Dutchess County; visit the Brine Garden
- October 25th in Westchester; visit Rocky Hills
- November 1st in Westchester; visit the Steinhardt garden
For more information visit the Garden Conservancy website.

DSC_0126HVGArdeners l-o-v-e garden outings, and everyone is welcome to join us. Invitations are posted on our Facebook page, and we’re happy to carpool. Don’t be shy! Garden and nursery exploring is more fun with other plant enthusiasts – you need someone to ooh, ah, and play name that plant with. Don’t you agree?


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Event Photos: Wethersfield Tour


On July 10, 2014 Hudson Valley Garden Association and guests enjoyed a private evening tour of Wethersfield Garden in Amenia, NY. Led on an informative tour of the gardens by Head Gardener, Karl Thompson, we soaked up the grand (but not too grand) and formal (but not too formal) garden as the sun set.

DSC_0139“As the Head Gardener of Wethersfield Garden, I have been faced with many natural challenges. The solution to these problems is to always look forward and remain optimistic. The tools and techniques used in garden maintenance must be constantly improved and modified. You are constantly learning from trade shows and magazines, visitors who are a wealth of garden knowledge, and of course the internet. I do not consider myself a master gardener because you never really master gardening, rather it masters you. Remember, a garden needs to see its gardener everyday!  For all you aspiring gardeners out there, keep mastering your trade and the rewards will follow.”
– Karl B. Thompson


There are hedges galore at Wethersfield. It was fun to hear some gardeners on the tour say they would “never!” want to work there – so much pruning – while others loved the idea of such a huge task.

DSC_0214The Inner Garden, closest to the house, was designed by Bryan J. Lynch and owner Chauncey D. Stillman before WWII. Garden expansion went on hold during the war years, and was resumed in 1947 by Evelyn N. Poehler who spent the next 25 years working with Mr. Stillman designing the rest of the garden.


Under the Beech Tunnel, Karl explains the fastening system they use to keep the branches on the arbor.


Climbing rose (“New Dawn”?) growing out of very small planting pockets in the path.

DSC_0236DSC_0238DSC_0239What was once the swimming pool is on the same axis as the Arborvitae Allée, which was soon to be removed and replanted for restoration.

DSC_0163A brief plant list is now available on the Wethersfield website, along with more information about the property and it’s history.


The Cut Flower Garden was in full bloom and is one of the only places in the garden where the staff deviates from the traditional planting plan – trying new things and growing their own favorites.


Wethersfield Garden is open to the public Wednesday, Friday and Saturday,
June – September; Noon to 5pm, last admission 4:30pm. Garden admission is $12 per person, $10 for Seniors and Students 13-18 years of age. Children 12 and under are free. House tours are available by appointment and cost $20.

214 Pugsley Hill Road, Amenia, New York 12501
(845) 373-8037

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