Hitch Lyman has a wonderful Greek Revival home. I am a big fan of this building style, which was very common in upstate NY in the 1800s, so it was a pleasure just to look at his house. Greek Revival gets its name from the fact that it is influenced by the architecture of classical Greece. The gardens surrounding Lyman’s home have that same classical feel, without being so formal as to seem high-falutin’ in its rural location. Consider this fountain on the south side of the house:
The fountain is bracketed by the two tall, relatively narrow trees in the background, yet there is a certain wildness beyond the low stone wall reminding you that civilization only extends so far. When I took this picture, my back was to the house, so I imagine you see this from some of the windows.
Pretty nice, huh? However, we were told the main garden was in the back, behind the temple. Yes, it’s a potting shed, looking more Greek than his Greek revival house. It’s on the further side of a small farm pond.
You circle around the pond, and, as promised, discover the gardens behind the temple.
Lyman makes use of yew hedging to delineate the structure of the garden. The grid-like design reminded me somewhat of Montrose, the more formal garden I had visited in North Carolina. Both gardens have a more cottage garden feel in the individual beds, while the straight paths provided the sight-lines perfect for showcasing a spectacular container or specimen plant.
Multi-Variety Apple Espaliers
In the previous photo, you can catch a glimpse of two apple espaliers, one on each side of the path, second row back. Here’s a closer look at one of them:
Mr. Lyman said he purchased them from Miller Nurseries a number of years ago. There were five different varieties grafted onto each tree, but one graft died, so he has nine different varieties. I had never seen a cylindrical espalier before. The two trees become sculptural elements in the garden as well as a practical way to enjoy a lot of different kinds of apples in a small space. Here’s another look at the framework:
While we’re on apples, I fell in love with this double pink crab, Improved Bechtel:
After a little searching online, I think the full name is Malus ioensis ‘Klehm’s Improved Bechtel’, a native prairie tree that likes it on the moist side.
Lilacs were the big draw in this garden, blooming everywhere you turned. But these were not the old-fashioned “barnyard” lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) you would typically find around a house of this age. Most of the lilacs blooming there were hyacinthiflora hybrids (properly written as Syringa x hyacinthiflora). It is a hybrid cross of S. vulgaris and S. oblata. They bloom earlier than straight S. vulgaris, and the individual florets in each cluster are larger than the common lilacs. I was really taken with ‘Sister Justina’. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a whiter white:
It was dazzling in the sunshine (and leaning because of the wind). Another one I loved was ‘Krasavitsa Moskvy,’ a very fragrant light pink.
My sister and I fell in love with another lilac called ‘Priscilla‘, but Lyman told us it was not available in commerce. It was originally bred by Bill Utley of Grape Hill Farm in Clyde, NY, and Lyman has provided cuttings to other lilac nurseries, who may eventually be able to offer it for sale.
It is worth doing research before buying a lilac, because so many of the better ones are not readily available in a big box store. I reviewed two lilac books that will help you make an informed choice, and the internet will help you locate a grower who sells that choice.
The peonies in Hitch Lyman’s garden were just starting to bloom. Both lilacs and peonies are very commonly found around Greek Revival farmhouses in this area, but once again Mr. Lyman kicks it up a notch: not common lilacs, and not common peonies. These peonies were bred by A.P. Saunders, a professor at Hamilton College in upstate NY. The foliage is more like species peonies, and the flowers have an elegant, simple form. Tom Fisher, former editor of Horticulture magazine and currently head of Timber Press, writes in detail about Saunders’ peonies on his personal website. If you are turned off by the big, blowsy peonies that you remember from Grandma’s garden, you’ll want to seek these out. I’ve long had my eye on ‘Athena,’ which I didn’t see in Lyman’s garden, but have drooled over in catalogs.
More Pictures of Lyman’s Garden
While visiting Lyman’s garden, I met up with Lynn Yenkey of Sin City to Slaterville. You should read her post about Hitch Lyman’s garden. She took photos from an entirely different perspective, including a few from inside that temple/potting shed.