Wethersfield Garden

The view from Wethersfield Garden in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Picture yourself sitting here! (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

I’ve visited some wonderful gardens this year; a few with magnificent ocean or river views, others with incredible landscapes flush with foliage and flowers.  And just when I thought the season was winding down, I found one more on my “must see” list, whose last open day (other than special events) was September 28.  As karma would have it, I happened to look up Wethersfield Garden that very morning, and was able to squeeze in by the skin of my teeth!  Lady Luck continued to have my back, providing crystal clear skies and toasty temperatures, as I drove along the quiet dirt road that wound its way to this new adventure. And what an unexpected, but thrilling surprise awaited me at the top of this remote mountain in Amenia, N.Y.; a property offering a treasure trove of gardens tucked in amongst beautifully manicured grounds, all wrapped in the most spectacular vistas imaginable. Believe me when I say, you won’t know which way to look first . . .

Wetherfield's grand entrance in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Wetherfield’s grand entrance (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Beginning with a vision and the purchase of two adjoining farms and 600 acres in 1937; Wethersfield Garden eventually grew to encompass 1,200 acres before its owner, Chauncey Stillman, passed away in 1989.  A stout environmentalist, Mr. Stillman embraced soil and water conservation practices for his farm and gardens; including crop rotation, constructing ponds for irrigation, terracing steep slopes to prevent erosion, and reforestation; practices that are still followed today. The farmlands surround the lower perimeter of the property, while the beautiful home and gardens are situated in peaceful seclusion at the top of the hill, where stunning views enhance every vantage point.  Mr. Stillman (and landscape architects Bryan Lynch and Evelyn Poehler) created a series of formal, Italian Renaissance flavored gardens that expanded over time to encompass three glorious mountaintop acres.

The Belvedere beckons you in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The Belvedere beckons you (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Lion sentries on stone pedestals welcome you, and tightly pruned evergreens in square, conical and tubular shapes line the grass walkway as you start your exploration of this exquisite garden. My heart was racing and my eyes darted from one place to another, yet my feet wouldn’t move. I was unable to decide where to go next. Straight ahead to the East Garden, left toward the Rose Garden, or right to the Belvedere? I didn’t want to miss a thing, but the pathway to the Belvedere (a circular, six columned tempieto), was illuminated in the sun’s rays, sending an undeniable invitation for me to climb the steps and observe the garden’s northernmost perspective from under its luxurious dome. This area is planted more naturally, allowing a smooth transition from the formal gardens to the native wilderness beyond.

The Water Garden and Arborvitae Allee in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The Water Garden and Arborvitae Allee (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

The East Garden affords opportunities to enjoy southerly vistas while getting a close-up look at the perfectly trimmed yew hedges, and the dogwood, azalea, viburnum and beech that lie outside its perimeter. To the right is the Cupid Fountain, a limestone Cupid-on-a-dolphin statue, backed by a meticulously constructed stone retaining wall. A little further ahead, you are once again greeted by statuary, this time in the form of horses, before stepping down to the Water Garden. A large circular area enclosed in hedges, the Water Garden allows you glimpses of the Inner Garden, the Arborvitae Allee, and stunning southerly exposures.

The playful Naiad Fountain in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The playful Naiad Fountain awaits your arrival (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Water features accentuate the landscape at every point of Wethersfield Garden, which is an integral part of this garden’s overall design scheme. Plants and ornamentation are carefully orchestrated to create individual spaces, and each garden setting is a delightful discovery as you round one corner and look into the next scene. Meticulously trimmed 24 foot tall arborvitaes extending over 190 feet comprise the Arborvitae Allee, a dramatic walkway leading to the Naiad Fountain, and on the return (you must continuously remind yourself to look back, forward, up and down), you witness a spectacular vision of the Water Garden and the distant mountains beyond. It’s all simply breathtaking, yet there is still so much more to see.

The Knot Garden & Grasshopper House in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The Knot Garden & Grasshopper House (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Travel through a shady tunnel constructed of trained beech tree limbs, then step up to the upper terrace of the Knot Garden, adorned with a prismatic assortment of lily, ageratum, begonia and delphinium blossoms contained within four geometric flower beds that direct you toward the steps down into the Inner Garden. Strategically situated to provide the garden’s best aspects from inside the windows of the main house, the lawn is centered in the Inner Garden and encircled with perennial favorites like hosta, iris, monarda, peony and late blooming anemone, all accentuated with boxwood spheres.

Step up to the Pine Terrace in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

Step up to the cozy Pine Terrace (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

At the rear of the house are a few cozier terraces, both with fabulous views but protected under canopies of massive pines. The aptly named Pine Terrace boasts a white pine at its center, and a goldfish pond where I found several frogs happily basking on water lilies. Steps from the terraces lead to a rear lawn that rolls gently downward, bordered by woods and a varied collection of formal and informal statuary; a prowling cougar was among my personal favorites. From this lower lawn you can look out into pastures flush with golden grasses, and mown trails are interwoven throughout, providing stretches for horseback riders to canter leisurely under the crisp autumn sky.

The peacock in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

I told you there was a peacock! (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Backtracking to the front of the carriage house, I followed a driveway and windy path out to the greenhouses, all the while trying to imagine what this property was like decades ago. Mature trees whispered long forgotten secrets on the wind and the garden beckoned me to follow one more path, the Peacock Walk. Oddly enough, a peacock strolled right up to me as I started on the last portion of my exploration, and watched with head cocked as I headed back into the garden.

The fabulous Cutting Garden in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer https://agardenforall.com

The fabulous Cutting Garden (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

The Peacock Walk is woven brick, lined on one side with tastemaker trees including several types of beech, white pine and Norway spruce. The south side is open to panoramic views of the East Garden and the Cutting Garden beyond, with only an ornate stone railing to separate you. Steps lead back down to the Cutting Garden, a smorgasbord of annual and perennial delicacies in all shapes, sizes and hues; from fiery orange zinnias and radiant raspberry dahlias to powdery blue salvias and the pearly white orbs of gomphrena. The sun shining at the backside of this mass bouquet only served to intensify each color, making them appear even more brilliant.

If you would like to explore a European style garden without having to jump on a plane, this well kept secret is worth the drive.  Wethersfield Garden is only open from June – September, so visit their website for events and to plan your visit: www.wethersfieldgarden.org

** Looking for gardens open all year, try: GREAT DESTINATIONS **


  1. WOW! What a beautiful place, I thought it was in Ct…

  2. You sound like a kid in a candy store!

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