R5 Home Ground

So, spring has sprung and you’re thinking of making the leap to a more enthralling backyard. What with the economy tottering, you figure that the home turf may be seeing a lot more of you this year. Might as well invest in the scene and create a space that you won’t want to leave.

The best way to choose a garden designer might be to follow him or her home. After all, at home, garden designers have free reign and can strut their stuff without inhibitions. Most garden designers experiment in their personal domains and use them as laboratories to test plants that are new to the market. They use them as extensions of their businesses, but they also stretch their limits. They live and they learn. We took a peek at the home front of four of Westchester’s well-known garden designers and came away with ideas that might help, whether you go the professional route or do it yourself.

Informal, yet structured
Annie McGinnis Sleepy Hollow

Q: Tell us a bit about your background.
A: I have an MBA from Harvard and started my career at IBM. I managed a large home-textiles business and then ran a high-end tabletop and jewelry firm. At midlife, I changed course and veered straight for landscape design.
Q: Describe your property.
A: A half-acre lot with a 1950s ranch house overlooking the river.
Q: What were your influences?
A: At the New York Botanical Garden, I met people who influenced my style, especially my friend Jan Axel of Delphinium Design. I learn something from everyone and every garden I meet.
Q: What do people want?
A: Everyone wants easy care, which is an oxymoron.
Q: What’s the ambience of your garden?
A: It’s experimental in the front—a hospital for orphaned plants from my jobs. In the back, I strive for tranquility and a sense of woodland.
Q: What’s your favorite tool?
A: My Papermate pen—everything starts with that.
Q: Do you have any money-saving advice?
A: I bring in container plants to propagate my own and get clippings from friends. It’s easy.

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Eclectic style
Hallie Flanagan Wolfe Ossining

Q: Were you always a garden designer?
A: Originally, I studied as a medical technician. Then, I was in theatrical set design. I started gardening in 1968. I see design as a natural extension of building for the stage.
Q: What’s your philosophy?
A: We garden in four dimensions; the fourth dimension is time. You’ve always got to think, ‘How is this going to look in five years?’
Q: Do you have a signature style?
A: Eclectic.
Q: Describe your own gardening space.
A: I’ve got a very dense shade garden, a wildflower area, a reflecting pool, a raised vegetable garden, plus a tropical area with tree ferns and impatiens.
Q: How does your garden differ from landscapes you create for clients?
A: I’m more organized. I just indulge myself in my own yard.
Q: What’s your greatest challenge?
A: Trying to bring color into a shade garden.
Q: And your solution?
A: There are wonderful variegated and striped Hakonechloa grasses that love the shade and I grow hellebores. Cyclamen is an annual, but it blooms all summer.
Q: Have a favorite tool?
A: My bare hands.
Q: Do you have any money-saving advice?
A: Mulch with wood chips from a tree service working in the neighborhood. Grow plants from seed. Ask gardening friends for plants.



Texture and form
Becca Mudge Hastings

Q: What’s your background?
A: I come from generations of gardeners. I’ve lived in several different countries—Panama, Peru, Bolivia, Guyana; they inform my design sense.
Q: What were your influences?
A: I was raised not to be afraid of getting my hands dirty.
Q: Describe your property.
A: I have a Normandy Tudor, so I play off the stucco in my three-quarter-acre garden. I’m not a big fan of foundation plantings—they’re too heavy for most houses.
Q: Do you have a signature style?
A: Clients would say it’s a mixture of textures and forms and not dependent on flowers. Big leaves just crack me up!
Q: How does your own garden differ from your clients’ gardens?
A: Oh, it’s much more exuberant, wild, and crazy. There’s a lot going on including a desert, bog, daylily collection, and a traditional English border.
Q: What’s your dream scene?
A: I get to make my dream scenes for clients; I don’t need to own it, per se. There isn’t anything haunting me—except maybe a cactus garden, because it’s pure shape.
Q: What’s your biggest challenge?
A: Deer.
Q: Got a favorite tool?
A: My pouch. It holds my pruners, my keys, and my cellphone. It’s my office.
Q: Do you have any money-saving advice?
A: Plant deer-resistant herbs like nepatas, sages, and lavender. And it’s always cheaper to buy bulbs rather than purchasing them as potted plants.


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A Renoir (with fairies)
Ann Gaillard Pelham

Q: Describe your background.
A: I majored in English at Sarah Lawrence and then went to Columbia University. I became a teacher, skippered a charter boat, went into advertising, sold lace for Rue de France, designed a line of teddy bears, and then started the landscaping business.
Q: How long have you been in the landscaping business?
A: Twenty-seven years and I never looked back.
Q: What was your primary influence?
A: Renoir. It should look like it has always been there—light and airy.
Q: What’s your signature style?
A: I try to create a scene so natural and soft that you look for the fairies.
Q: What’s your dream scene?
A: “I always wanted to create a savannah. I would add sculpture, and that would be the cat’s meow.
Q: If you could make a change to your garden, what would it be?
A: “I’d throw in four hundred to five hundred more lilies.
Q: What’s your favorite tool?
A: A clipper.
Q: Can you share some money-saving advice?
A: Every year I divide something and give plants to a church or a public space. You have to be organic—it results in less water usage, fewer pests, and good health.
Q: What was your biggest bungle?
A: I’ve redone the backyard four times. I didn’t leave enough room for the dogs to play hide and seek.

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