Garden Tours

Frogs at Clare Johnson's in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Frogs at Clare Johnson’s pond (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

I am the president of a small (approx 600 member) garden club that encompasses towns in Connecticut and New York.  Our organization, the Mad Gardeners (, is similar to many other gardening groups in our passion for beautiful landscapes and desire to protect our environment.  What sets us apart is our dedication to sharing; each year dozens of members open their private gardens to other members.  I can tell you first hand that this is a wonderful opportunity to get to know other members and to be inspired by what they have done to enhance their individual properties.  And that is a word I love, inspired, which is exactly what I feel every time I visit another garden.

A Turtle with friends in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

A Turtle with friends in Clare’s garden (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Clare Johnson graciously opened her extensive property after a deluge completely saturated it just hours before.  Her gardens surround a few ponds and wetlands, meandering up to the house where she had beds filled with perennials such as delphiniums (still standing!), roses and lilies.  She demonstrates an artistic flair with a massive stone (?) turtle strategically placed adjacent to the pond and a pair of herons set to oversee the wetlands.  Clare has a great love for birds as evidenced by her chickens, domestic ducks and charming resident black swan.  Yet a pair of native mallards felt equally at home as they comfortably floated by in her pond while a couple of frogs basked leisurely along the bank.  This was a spot where all living things felt happy to visit and linger, including me.

Quiet resting spot along Georgette's Meander in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Quiet resting spot along Georgette’s Meander (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

I’ve known Georgette Miller since our old horseback riding days, but had never been to her home.  The bond Georgette has with the property she spent thirty years cultivating became clear to me the moment I strolled across her lawn.  Her gardens span over four acres, some of which have been allowed to naturalize with only a mown grass trail that weaves around (she calls it “The Meander”), and complemented by other areas where she has created flower gardens, seating areas and shrub beds.  Throughout the property are trees Georgette planted as youngsters, such as katsura, dawn redwood, horse chestnut (from seed) and bald cypress; now majestic specimens.  Georgette’s garden proves that foresight and patience are a great formula for a wonderful garden.

Pathway through Cynthia's border in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Pathway through Cynthia’s border (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Although I have visited Cynthia Newby’s garden before, there is always something new and unexpected around every corner.  There is a lovely stone patio set up to view the landscape, and birds, bees and butterflies clamor for a spot to hover.  Her garden beds are similar in design to my own because we both like to mix shrubs and perennials together, yet her plant/shrub combinations are quite different and very appealing.  She has a gorgeous selection of iris, echinacea, nepeta, veronica and a multitude of other sun worshippers combined with an assortment of shrubs such as spirea, fothergilla and viburnum.  Cynthia’s property is open and welcoming; bordered by an established apple orchard on one side, a fabulous alee of Nyssa sylvatica on the other, and a classical temple at the rear.  Why, there is even an area for croquet that is overseen by a protective iron guard dog.

Lee's elegant pool garden in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Lee’s elegant pool garden (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

The driveway up to Lee Link’s garden was a preview of what was to come when the final destination was reached.  Lee’s garden is another thirty year project of love, designed not only to appreciate the stunning views of distant mountains, but to provide a sanctuary for her vast collection of plants, trees and artistic embellishments.  Lee has a skill for collecting unique pieces that enhance her property, while not being overstated (she allowed us into her home, where the creative spirit abounds as well).  What I appreciated most about Lee’s garden were her editing techniques; she eliminated a few perennial beds to simplify her landscape, with very elegant results.  One garden was replaced with handsome rows of penesetum ‘Hameln’ that flowed down a slight incline to the stonewalls below.  Lee cleverly utilized three specimen kousa dogwoods by transplanting them to another area, surrounding them with an easily maintained stone and gravel hardscape.  Where others use boxwood, Lee has a lush hedge of yew (yes, yew!) that acts as a pleasing backdrop between the lawn and garden.  This garden taught me the value of form; when used creatively less is certainly more-both for the eye and for the body!

A million dollar view at Baker-Linder garden in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

A million dollar view at the Baker-Linder garden (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

When it comes to trimming and primping and generally being a bit obsessive (I say this with the utmost love and affection) Ray Baker and Stan Linder are at the top of the list, and it shows clearly in the garden they lovingly tend to for hours each day.  This labor of love isn’t for every gardener, but as I acknowledge my own OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) tendencies, I absolutely adore and embrace their way of keeping everything just so.  Not a limb out of place, gardens beautifully edged and weed free, and a million dollar view to enhance the entire scene.  Utilizing gorgeous evergreens that came with the property; some to create a privacy screen and pruning others into delightful forms, adding other plants and shrubs to compliment the design and surrounding landscape, all resulting in a wonderful visual experience.  A sampling of Ray’s tangy Calamondin orange and a bit of his decadent homemade chocolates were the perfect complement to this fabulous garden visit.

Lynden's mixed border in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Lynden’s mixed border (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Lynden Miller is well known for her works improving New York’s parks and gardens from the Bronx to the Battery, including the Central Conservatory Garden, Bryant Park, The New York Botanical Garden, Madison Square Park, and Wagner Park. With an emphasis on design for year-round interest, Lynden scheduled her own gardens for a mid-September visit, and indeed the borders were glowing with stunning blossoms and a variety of forms, many set off by the perfectly manicured boxwood hedge behind them.  Lynden’s gardens are a delightful tapestry of formal and informal elements; tightly trimmed red barberries and emerald boxwoods blending perfectly with flowing grasses, upright foliage and low growing blue junipers. Waiting behind the hedge is an open meadow filled with choice trees and shrubs that leads to a small ornamental pond, bordered by a lush woodland garden lined with a variety of hosta, sedges and other shade lovers. A stroll through Lynden’s property reflects both her love of gardening and skill as a designer.

Lynden's shrub & plant combination in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Lynden’s shrub & plant combination (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

While all these gardens are deserving of more than a paragraph, I wanted to share the fine points while remaining as brief as possible.  Due to space restrictions, I was also unable to share every garden I visited.  However, I am truly honored to be part of an organization that is so willing to share, and extend my heartfelt gratitude to each of the Mad Gardeners that did.  Gardening isn’t just about plants and trees, but the landscape they encompass and how each gardener interprets its purpose. One of the greatest pleasures we have as gardeners is our ability to share; our skill and talents, our discoveries as well as conundrums, and our overall love for digging in the dirt.  No matter if your garden encompasses acres or sits on your desk in a terrarium, it’s your inspiration, your friends and neighbor’s inspiration, and mine.


  1. Christina Benson says:

    Wonderful set of garden views, thanks so much for all of this inspiration (especially since it is gloomy and dark today!

    • Thank you Christina! One of my favorite pass-times as winter approaches is looking back on beautiful plants and gardens I photographed during the summer. Somehow it makes those gloomy days a little more bearable. Thanks for taking the time to comment~

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