Great Local Destinations

The water garden at Wave Hill in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

The water garden at Wave Hill (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Life is crazy busy for so many of us these days.  Between careers, family, (animals & gardens!) and home, it’s a wonder we ever have time to relax.  Although many of us can take the time to travel around the world, for a variety of reasons, some of us can not.  I have traveled a little; within the U.S. I’ve hiked the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, visited the red hills of Sedona and the Grand Canyon in Arizona, lounged on the beaches of Southern California, even going as far as the Virgin Island of St. John where I swam with sea turtles (and barracudas).  But honestly, as Dorothy discovered when she ventured off to see the Wizard of Oz, to me there is no place like home.  And no matter where you live, with a little research you will find lots of great places nearby to spend a day relaxing and rejuvenating.  Here are a few places close to me where I easily recharge my batteries:


A colorful border in Gertrude Jekyll's Garden in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

A colorful border in Gertrude Jekyll’s Garden (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Gertrude Jekyll’s Garden: (Woodbury, CT)- In 1926 Gertrude Jekyll, a well known English horticultural designer and author, was commissioned to plan a garden to beautify the newly renovated Glebe House Museum.  Although this property was much smaller than most Ms. Jekyll had worked on, she expressed her passion for plants in an equally grand way by designing a classic English border, foundation plantings, a rose alee and planted stone terrace. It is unclear why the garden project was never completed at the time, but fortunately in 1970 Gertrude’s plans were rediscovered by a student from Berkeley College and efforts to complete the gardens in accordance to her original design began in 1990. The Glebe House Museum offers the only American garden designed by Gertrude Jekyll that is still in existence today. (open May-November)


A seating area on The Highline in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

A beautiful seating area on The Highline (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

The Highline: (Manhattan, NY)- Built in the 1930’s as part of a massive public-private infrastructure project called the West Side Improvement, the High Line was created to remove dangerous trains from the streets of Manhattan’s largest industrial district. By 1980, trains had stopped using the High Line, and in 1999 Friends of the High Line, a community based non-profit group, formed to prevent the demolition of this historic structure.  In partnership with the City of New York, construction began in 2006 on the first section from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street, which opened in June of 2009, the second section, from West 20th to West 30th Streets, opened in June of 2011, and the final section is projected to open in 2014.  Spread over a 1.45 mile span you’ll see hundreds of different varieties of perennials, trees, shrubs and bulbs, and dozens of various cultivars of grasses, vines and wetland plants thriving on over 395 acres of gardens and lawns. (open all year)


Garden room at the Hollister House in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Garden room at the Hollister House (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Hollister House Garden: (Washington, CT)- Is described as an “American interpretation of classic English gardens, formal in its structure but informal and rather wild in its style of planting.” Sited on 25 acres of mostly wooded countryside, the Hollister House gardens are an array of rooms so artistically designed that you slowly wander from one to another trying to take it all in. There are multiple water features, stone walls and vine covered steps that lead you from one adventure to another.  Surprises are around every corner, some beautiful specimen trees like stewartia and purple beech that quietly wait for you to notice them, which is difficult with all the surrounding plant combinations vying for your attention.  (open May-September-see website for times)


A relaxing spot at Innisfree in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

A relaxing spot at Innisfree (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Innisfree: (Millbrook, NY)- Innisfree’s creation started with the vision of an artist, Walter Beck, and his heiress wife, Marion, who wanted to make their Millbrook residence into something extraordinary.  In the late 1930′s, the couple entrusted their dreams to landscape architect Lester Collins, which resulted in a 185 acre stroll garden designed with a compilation of Modernist ideas, and Chinese and Japanese principles. The Innisfree property surrounds a glacial lake and along its shores, as well as throughout the rolling landscape, you will come upon a series of “cup gardens”; areas with natural stone forms, sculpted landscape terrain, various water features and distinctive plantings.  Mr. Collins also considered long term care for the gardens, thus developing environmentally safe, cost effective techniques for preserving the garden well into the future. (open May-October)


Mine Hill roasting ovens in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Mine Hill roasting ovens (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Mine Hill Preserve: (Roxbury, CT)- This 19th century granite quarry and iron processing site encompasses 360 acres in Roxbury (on the National Register of Historic Places) and includes miles of trails filled with historical view points.  Walk along narrow donkey paths that lead to a reservoir, pass ancient mine tunnels and grated air shafts, look up at massive granite cliffs and piles of discarded rubble, ultimately finding yourself back to the roasting ovens and furnace structures once used to process iron ore in the mid 1800′s. The Mine Hill Preserve is an historic property that reflects both the implications that quarries and mines had with regard to producing jobs and improving the livelihood of local workers at the time, along with resulting beauty as nature was once again allowed to take over when these industrial sites were abandoned. (open all year)


The Mount's balcony view in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

The Mount’s balcony view (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

The Mount: (Lenox, MA)- The results of Edith Wharton’s passion as a gardener and designer are quite evident as you walk through the estate and the surrounding property of The Mount.  Inside, her eye for detail is easily recognized in the hand carved marble fireplaces (in every bedroom), the ornate trim on the walls and ceilings, even the marble baseboard moldings in her entryway. Outside, the theme most important to this wise New England resident was focusing on what she called “charm independent of the seasons”, in other words, seasonal interest.  Mrs. Wharton envisioned her three acres of gardens as a series of outdoor rooms designed to meld with the natural landscape, while looking beautiful during any time of the year.  What you won’t find here are masses of flower beds (only one flower garden), instead the emphasis is on a sculptured landscape open to distant views, groupings of various shrubs and neatly pruned evergreens.  The Mount is one of only 5% of National Historic Landmarks dedicated to women. (open May-October, visit web site for hours)


Inside the Patterson Quarry in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Inside the Patterson Quarry (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Patterson Quarry: (Patterson, NY)- Open to the public a few times each year, this limestone quarry has been owned by Peckham Industries since the 70′s, but was actively mined since the 1940′s.  Walking down into the Patterson Quarry, which at its deepest point is 223′ below the surface, was quite an experience in itself.  Examining the cuts in the stone, the horizontal layers (called shelves), the enormity of it all was absolutely breathtaking.  Purple blossoms of the rugged New York ironweed were scattered about along with native aster and goldenrod, many growing out of a seemingly impervious small crack.  At the base were some moist areas that provided a welcoming home for more flowering natives, grasses and even a few cattails. The property is surrounded by the “Great Swamp”, a 444 acre wetland which will reclaim the quarry (fill with water) within the next 20 years. (open by invitation only)


View from the Walkway Over the Hudson in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

View from the Walkway Over the Hudson (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Walkway Over the Hudson: (Poughkeepsie, NY)- At a length of 6,768 feet (1.28 miles) and height of 212 feet, this multi-spanned cantilever truss bridge was constructed of steel, with the two approach viaducts made from iron; together forming one of the most direct rail routes between the northern and mid-western states. Designed in the late 1800’s when “Built to last” actually meant exactly that, engineers hired for the 21st century restoration were surprised to find that most of the bridge’s original structure was in excellent condition, and that its four supporting legs were installed so deep into the river bed that they had never moved an inch.  Restoration efforts began in earnest in 2007, and the Walkway Over the Hudson hosted it’s opening ceremony on October 3, 2009 in coordination with the 400th anniversary celebration of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the Hudson River.  As the longest elevated pedestrian bridge in the world, it is estimated that almost 800,000 visit annually. (open all year-weather permitting-*go earlier to avoid crowds)


Fabulous view of the Hudson River at Wave Hill in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Fabulous view of the Hudson River at Wave Hill (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Wave Hill: (Bronx, NY)- Wave Hill is a 28 acre public garden encompassing a series of gently rolling hills embellished with formal and informal gardens, specimen trees, natural wooded areas and meandering trails, all leading to breathtaking views of the Hudson River.  There are green houses packed to the rafters with prickly cactus, curious succulents, and hundreds of lush, vibrant plants bursting with blossoms.  Since the mission of Wave Hill is to “Celebrate the artistry and legacy of its gardens and landscapes, to preserve its magnificent views, and to explore human connections to the natural world through programs in horticulture, education and the arts”, it makes sense that they offer a variety of classes year round in their cultural center as well. (open all year-specific days only)

With warm seasons ahead, take a moment to see what is available in your area.  Pack your picnic basket and take a mini-vacation, you’ll be glad you did~


  1. Thank You- I now have a great list of future day trips to look forward to-

    • You’re welcome, Gloria! And most of these places look wonderful from spring to early winter, so you can be sure to fit them all in~

  2. Wow! I had no idea there were so many places to see in our area! Thanks for all the information on them, and the beautiful photographs!

    • You are welcome, Patty! Now you have a list of great places to spend a day . . . if the opportunity presents itself! And, I’ll be scoping out a whole new list this year as well!

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A Garden for All