Discover A Home Wrapped In Rose Gardens

A garden in Mount Kisco offers intoxicating fragrances and several outdoor “rooms” that lure family and friends outside.

When interior designer/garden enthusiast Pamela Salvatore said she wanted garden rooms, she wasn’t speaking figuratively. She created a series of spaces to lure family and friends outdoors during the summer. At the end of the day, the Salvatores have their choice—they can dine overlooking a sea of roses or eat on a table underneath wisteria vines. Who can choose?

You can pretty much follow your nose to Salvatore’s Mount Kisco home. Just open the car windows, inhale, and wait for the fragrance of freshly unfurling rosebuds to fill your nose. Turn into the drive where the perfume is so intense that it curls your toes and that would be the Salvatores’ domain. Once you are there, your other senses are unlocked. Lilacs mingle with the deep-throated elixir of Viburnum x juddii, dianthus, peonies, and herbs. Green boxwoods are sculpted into smooth orbs that beg to be touched. Underfoot, warm, crunchy pea gravel invites you to kick off your shoes; a circular thyme terrace (the designer calls it “the landing pad”) sends up the essence of herbs with every step; while spires of delphiniums, foxgloves, and iris electrify your field of vision. If heaven is heady, then the Promised Land certainly dwells on four acres in Mount Kisco. But it wasn’t always so romantic.

On Salvatore’s patio/outdoor office, climbing ‘New Dawn’ roses spill their petals into a wall fountain.

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Granted, the Salvatores scored the cutest house imaginable when they moved to Mount Kisco from Chappaqua. Tucked into a hillside with an entry courtyard embraced in a hug by wings on either side, Salvatore’s home had all the hallmarks of a comfy gardener’s cottage. It had the necessary stonework to traverse the steep hill, but no gardens existed beyond some venerable trees. After expanding the living spaces and inserting her own swank colorful palette inside, Salvatore turned her attention outdoors. On the property, she continued to do what interior designers do best: create rooms. What followed was a gradually expanded floorplan working out from the house, adding living space with fresh air. And she took the room motif literally—including walls, fixtures, and flooring. Salvatore’s gardens are draped in flowers, blossoming vines wander up arbors all around, “steppable” groundcover carpets the earth. Outdoors, every “room” is wrapped in floral wallpaper. No wonder this family always gravitates outside.

For continuity, ‘New Dawn’ roses festoon the pergola sheltering the dining/outdoor kitchen/lounging patio as well as climbing along latticework along the wall of the house.

How did she achieve Nirvana in Mount Kisco? Her first step was to segment spaces and give each a personality. Stairways are escorted up and down by shrubs and low-growing perennials (“I like perennials because they are a gift that keeps on giving, always coming back bigger and better than the year before”) with orbs of clipped boxwood at the landings. Handsome stone retaining walls give texture to the grade changes, while accent trees are pruned neatly into shape along the way. Some steps are stone; others are soft grass with stone risers. Getting there is half the fun.

Salvatore gave the entry an Old World feeling with a fountain surrounded by potted plants. Adding the overview vantage point from a parterre garden was pure genius—and one of Salvatore’s first design decisions, accomplished by hiring landscape architect Elizabeth Ward of Pleasantville, who helped with the plant selection throughout the property. Fond of enfilades, Salvatore framed the sunken entryway to the house with an archway shouldering ‘New Dawn’ roses and clematis. Surrounded by a white picket fence, the strictly formal space is softened by billowing lady’s mantle, armeria, evening primrose, and herbs accented by repeated tuteurs bearing climbing roses. The tuteurs are among the many types of supports Salvatore provided to invite vining plants to get a leg up.

The Fairy’ roses are among Elizabeth Ward’s easy-care selections. Delphiniums don’t always survive as perennials, but nonetheless, Salvatore plants them every year in the parterre cutting garden. S

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The parterre leads into the small “landing pad” terrace with flagstones and thyme, plus table and chairs for a snack at midday or wine after work. It has a commanding view of the “tiny house,” reminiscent of a quaint Scandinavian summer cottage. Originally a children’s playhouse, Salvatore gave it a more mature job description of hosting romantic evening suppers. With an ocean of ‘The Fairy’, ‘Carefree Wonder’, and ‘Double Knock Out’ shrub roses below the tiny house’s terrace, what could be more exotic? 

Salvatore found some shelving at a sale at the John Jay Homestead and made an outdoor potting shed. Staking is essential to support the towering spires. 

Beyond the terrace is a fountain within a simple symmetry of hedges inspired by Edith Wharton’s The Mount. Below that fountain is a meadow with a mowed path leading around the house to an outdoor living room/dining room/kitchen. Adjacent to Salvatore’s office and fitted with an outdoor fireplace and pizza oven, the outdoor living room is where you’ll find her most of the time. If she’s not setting the dining table beneath the pergola (complete with chandelier), then she’s got her feet up on a chaise, tapping away at her laptop. No matter what’s happening in the “room,” a wall fountain provides the soundtrack for the action. Latticework supports climbing ‘New Dawn’ roses, providing an interesting pattern of interwoven woodwork even when the roses are dormant. Underfoot is no-nonsense fieldstone to streamline maneuvering from place to place with food and drinks.

And there’s more. French doors from the master bedroom open to a secluded gravel patio (“the gravel gives it a French feeling”) with bistro chairs and private outdoor shower beneath window boxes spilling with flowers. A shade garden filled with bleeding hearts, hellebores, lamium, lungwort, lady’s mantle, and lily of the valley takes you around the side of the house. And a guest cottage is ensconced in ‘Colette’ roses with lavender-lookalike nepeta and thornless ‘Rosa Zephirine Drouhin’ near the parking area to ensure an ouchless arrival.

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The result is cohesive but multifaceted. And in Salvatore’s domain, all the rooms have a view. 

Promising a Rose Garden

When Pamela Salvatore called in landscape architect Elizabeth Ward of Pleasantville to work on her garden, the two knew they were on the same page at the first mention of roses. Making roses do stunts became a favorite theme. But roses can be tricky. Ward’s motto is “It’s all in selection.” Here, she shares advice for success. 

• A deer fence is essential, but one reason for selecting roses is that they are not at the top of the deer-damage list. 

• Place thorny roses where they won’t tangle with foot traffic into the house—or go with a thornless rose, such as ‘Zephirine Drouhin’.

• Fit your roses with a substantial support to shoulder their weight. 

• Tie climbing roses into their supports as they roam. 

• Think about fragrance when selecting your plants. David Austin roses have sensational scents, and the flowers appear in a full spectrum of colors.

• Match your roses with the job you want them to accomplish. Select climbing roses, such as ‘New Dawn’ and ‘Colette’, for arbors and shrub roses as mass plantings. The ‘Carefree Wonder’ and ‘Knock Out’ roses below the “tiny house” perform the additional function of preventing erosion.

• Go for easy-care roses. The new ‘Carefree Wonder’, Flower Carpet, and ‘Knock Out’ series of roses are easy to love because they are resistant to disease and continually pump out flowers.

• When planting shrub roses en masse, place them 3.5 feet apart. They look nice immediately after planting and will fill into a dense display.

• Early in the season, deadhead roses after they flower to
prevent the plants from throwing their energy into forming rose hips. Later in the year, let them form hips for winter interest.

• Wear heavy gauntlet gloves when pruning and use a long-handled pruner.

• Pair climbing roses with another vine, such as clematis, for a longer duration of interest.

• Cover the ankles of climbing roses with a low-growing perennial, such as nepeta.

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