Author Patricia Morrisroe on Gardening in Westchester County, NY

In Westchester, the world is your backyard—but Patricia Morrisroe wants to know what you plant in it.

Central Park is my backyard—and luckily, I don’t have to tend it. I can admire the flowers in the Shakespeare Garden without worrying about watering them. I can sit under one of 25,000 trees without wondering if they’ve been sprayed to prevent disease. I can watch the seasons change without fretting over the leaves clogging my gutters, or the icicles dangling from my roof. And when I want to bring a touch of nature indoors, I can call the Korean deli and order roses in a multitude of colors.  

In Westchester, nature is more demanding. Trees fall down, and you have to remove them. Yes, the pond is lovely, but what about the pesky geese? Why do they use the lawn as their own personal Port-O-San? And then there are the eight window boxes. When we bought our weekend house in Westchester four years ago, I didn’t so much fall in love with the house as the cheerful pansies decorating it. I didn’t realize that, without the flowers, the house looks rather plain. Keeping the boxes filled and looking nice has become my obsession. My husband wonders why we can’t leave them empty; he still doesn’t understand the need for styling them according to the seasons. Autumn brings purple cabbage plants; winter a mix of greens and berries. “Do you realize how much we’ve just spent?” he says every time we visit the nursery. “And the flowers don’t even last that long.” It’s true. Sometimes the deer eat them, and sometimes they die for mysterious reasons that are probably only a mystery to me.

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Last year, I planted flowers by the pool, but a groundhog devoured them. I caught him in the act. He was standing on his hind legs casually nibbling. When I chased him away, he sought revenge by hiding beneath a rock that functions as a diving board, popping out when I was doing laps. To keep him out of the garden, I was told I’d have to install an additional chicken-wire fence along with the wooden one we already have. Or I could trap him. Ugh! So, for now, I’m staying focused on the window boxes. Leave the garden to the groundhog. I’ll order roses with my fat-free milk.

Patricia Morrisroe is the author of Mapplethorpe: A Biography, and was, for many years, a contributing editor at New York magazine. 
Her most recent book is Wide Awake: A Memoir of Insomnia.

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