My calendar acquired a new annual holiday: the one day a year when Madeline and Ian Hooper open their Rockland Farm in Canaan, NY to the public as part of The Garden Conservancy initiative.
On Saturday, Gail & Atan forwarded us their friend Sandy’s email about an open day at “the Hoopers’ garden”: ”Tomorrow is the day that this gracious couple so generously open them up to the public. [...] Worth every second. You won’t be disappointed.” Sandy is an experienced gardener herself with a taste for fine things (check out her Antiques & Interiors Store), and I was, of course, intrigued. Yet, tomorrow came, and, being faced with an overwhelming amount of tomato staking, I decided I’d see that garden some other day or, rather, year… Thankfully, around 3pm my phone rang and Gail told me to get there right away, even if only for one hour. ”You gotta see this,” she said. So I jumped into the car, still in my gardening gear, and 10 minutes later was at the gates of the Rockland Farm, known among the locals as the Hooper Garden.
It was clear I was in for a monolithic surprise as soon as I entered and saw this rock wall harboring an array of exotic plants worthy of any botanical garden’s display. Not at all a landscape you would expect to see on an Upstate New York farm — what was it doing there? This article - The Hooper Garden: A Passion That’s Bigger than Both of Them – on Rural Intelligence will explain everything much better than I can.
I asked for permission to take photos to be posted on my blog but wasn’t really ready to ask for a formal interview… Stumbling around with my mouth agape, I could not stop snapping shots of remarkable designs, eye-opening perspectives and clever ideas, quite literally at every step of the way. (I should also mention that I was using our new iPad, which in and of itself is a bit awkward because of its size, but the camera on it does an excellent job, so it’s worth the embarrassment.)
I’ll keep my comments to a minimum and hope that these images reflect the inspiration and the genius of this place. Someone referred to it as “a gardener’s Disneyland,” I heard, and, true, it felt like one thrill ride after another… Except that a magic of a different kind animates the air here, one that does not demand a suspension of disbelief.
Its flow connecting the distinct themes of the garden’s different “rooms” or spaces is gentle but unmistakable. For example, the exotic feel of The Rock wall still echoes in your mind as you reach the Marrakech garden.
The straight lines of the swimming pool area expose the essential harmony of geometry and profound natural simplicities behind every breathtaking design.
(Also, Gail requested that a similar canopy be constructed by our pond.)
From the pool a path leads through a trellised arch (the first photo in this post) to a beautiful fountain, and as you let yourself become mesmerized by its reflection, you enter a different reality, a harmonious world governed by poetic principles of the dreamiest Romantic fairytales.
Wait, is that a frog prince? A frog princess?
This could be a perfect embodiment of Romanticism’s ultimate ideal: a unification of science and poetry in this double entendre of the mossy-looking thyme creeping over a sundial. Get it?
At the opposite end of the park (here I’m taking a giant leap forward but shall return) this serpentine wind sculpture reminded me of Aeolian harps I read about in E.T.A. Hoffmann’s tales; its golden rustling bringing me yet another step closer to the philosophy of nature that seems to have established a residence here.
This tree stub passage completely blew my mind. Nothing says magic forest to me like ancient trees, inverted roots and giant tree stubs split in half as if by a god’s lightning sword…
At the beginning of my tour I overheard a grateful guest express her amazement to Madeline Hooper by calling the couple’s magnificent garden “a true labor of love.” And when a short while later this statue of Artemis revealed itself amidst the trees (and once I realized it wasn’t Eros), these words made me recognize in this twin sister of Apollo not a goddess of hunt but rather a caring protectress of wilderness and birth.
As I said I leaped a bit ahead of myself, but now I’d like to return to the chronological order of my stroll. The next stop after the fountain and the thyme sundial was the vegetable garden — the original goal of my visit. Another time keeper, a giant rooster guards its fence. And believe me, there are some amazing treasures growing inside.
This well forms a powerful central axis of the garden. But let me retract from postulating architectural principles of which I know nothing and take a break for today. In the next post I’ll show and tell all the new things I learned about growing vegetables from a master gardener, Richard, and his intern, Amanda, during my visit.