Colorful blooms benefit Berkshire Botanical Garden


CANAAN, N.Y. — With lush lawns, exquisite blooms, flourishing raised bed vegetable gardens and a man-made pond alive with goldfish and frogs, the Rockland Farm offers much to delight the eyes.

The private property was one of three spaces open to the public on Sunday for the Columbia County Open Day garden tour project. The tours, done in partnership with the Stockbridge, Mass.-based Berkshire Botanical Garden, generate funds benefitting a national Garden Conservancy program. The Berkshire Botanical Garden also benefits from the fundraiser, said Ian Hooper, owner of the vast property. Hooper is a trustee of the BBG, he said.

"We're all big fans of the Berkshire Botanical Garden," Hooper said. "The Garden Conservancy is a national organization that encourages people to garden."

Touring the property is a visual treat. Numerous varieties of flowers bloom in bursts of vivid colors and scent while shrubbery, grasses, and trees decorate other areas of the perfectly manicured deep green lawn. The vegetable beds are overflowing with leafy greens and as visitors toured the property, a large and lazy frog watched warily from a safe perch atop a large lily pad.

Saugerties resident Olana Bachinsky said she was awed by the property.

"I think it's very interesting," she said. "Look at what they did with the cliff. Just to be able to landscape it is amazing."

"The cliff" is a 450-foot rock ledge that seems to push straight up and is home to a dry garden. A dry garden seeks sunlight from the very top of the ledge.

Property co-owner Madeline Hooper said that originally, the ledge was just a bit of an eyesore, covered with scrub trees and brush. The rock was encased in earth as well.

"A friend that was visiting, Liz Toffey, who is a rock garden specialist, said that in that space was a beautiful ledge," she said.

Another friend, famed landscape artist and gardener Renny Reynolds, delivered insights and assistance for the project, Hooper said.

Hudson resident Heather Grimes is a member of the Columbia Land Conservancy. Grimes and Conservancy members Barbara Hughey of Germantown and Linda Horn of Spencertown together offer natural landscapes workshops.

Horn's garden was also part of the open day event.

The workshops help people with gardens but also with larger land parcels, Grimes said.

"Once land is preserved you have to take care of it," she said. "You have to learn things like how to remove invasive plant species, for instance. Proper land restoration is as important as land preservation. It's like a second salvation,"

Workshops have been held at the Berkshire Botanical Garden as well, Grimes said.

The Rockland Farm event coincided with the 20th annual and final Pittsfield, Mass. Garden Tour, a perennial favorite that draws people to view private gardens in the community. Proceeds from that tour go into a fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation to help support future tours, and also to be granted to other landscape enhancement projects in Pittsfield.

Berkshire Botanical Garden member, Rob Williams, said the events like these serve as a reminder to the property owners that great gardens must be cultivated to generate strong attendance.

"It's like when you were in college and you cleaned your dorm room when you knew your parents were coming," he said. "It's kind of like that."


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