My Garden: Tiers of Vegetables in New York
Nancy Hallberg lives in Waccabuc, New York, a small hamlet in the town of Lewisboro, with her husband Garth. Hallberg describes Waccabuc as "just about as far north of Manhattan as you can go and still handle the daily commute. But on bad days, it feels like it’s halfway to Montreal."
Despite her long commute—an hour and 40 minutes every weekday into the city—one of the perks of Hallberg's remote home is her 4-acre property, which has an acre and a half devoted to the family's terraced gardens.
Hallberg, one of our colleagues here at Bonnier, is the Chief Strategy Officer for The Parenting Group and her husband Garth is a direct marketing consultant and professor at St. John’s University.
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How would you describe the style of your garden?
It’s a combination of practical and informal. Practical, because we have easy access to anything edible—we have a kitchen garden for herbs outside the back kitchen door; a raspberry patch that lines the ramp up to the garden terrace; and the garden is easily accessible from both the ground floor and the bedroom for early morning weeding sessions before the sun gets too hot in the summer!
It's informal because we continually try new plants in new places. If they’re happy, they stay put; if they’re not, we’ll keep moving them around until they perk up.
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Does your garden have any green gardening techniques and/or unique structures?
Our vegetable garden is totally organic—no pesticides or chemicals. The terracing of the property creates some wonderful nooks, crannies, paths, and many lovely seating areas.
How long have you had this garden? How long did it take to get it to its current state?
Five years ago we renovated a 1950s ranch house into the Craftsman-inspired house we now have and we created the terraces and gardens from scratch from the untended, overgrown hill behind the house. We have a bridge from a balcony outside the bedroom to the garden terrace level, which is architecturally interesting and a great place to have vines of zucchini rampicante twine around and produce their yard-long fruit.
Did you work with a landscape architect?
No, this is the product of our own fevered imagination!
How did you decide on a color palette for your garden?
The color palette changes throughout the growing season. The early spring palette is dominated by pale pinks and purples. The midsummer garden has a lot of yellow and orange, set off by the pale blue of hydrangeas. The fall garden brings in white and dark purples.
Any particular challenges with this space? How did you address them?
One major challenge was to make sure that even as we added terraces, we could still get a truck up to the top of the property so we would be able to bring in compost, topsoil or large shrubs. We solved that problem by creating a long ramp up the side of the property, lined with raspberry bushes, that is just wide enough for a truck to clear.
How has the garden changed over time?
Over time we’ve cleared more land and removed trees as the garden has grown and matured. This changes the light patterns, and we’ve had to relocate a great deal of our early shade planting as we pushed the shade further back!
Left: Peonies grow under umbrellas.
What was most important to you when you started planning your garden?
My overriding concern was—and still is—making sure that there’s always something blooming or visually interesting in each part of the garden throughout the entire growing season, and finding plants that stretch that growing season as long as possible.
My hellebores appear in March, even before the earliest crocuses in the spring, and the garden doesn’t wind down until it’s buried in the first snowfall, thanks to late-blooming anemones, clematis paniculata (at left), and carpet roses that would go through December if they weren’t buried by a blizzard. That leaves me with only three really bleak non-gardening months, during which I pore over lots of gardening catalogs!
Did you want to have an emphasis on flowers or vegetables?
I’m the primary flower gardener and my husband is the primary vegetable gardener, though I cook and preserve the vegetables. And of course, it’s all hands on deck for harvest time.
What are some of your favorite plants in your garden?
Some of my favorite flowers include Chinese tree peonies, Monarda, several varieties of columbine, Campanula, Hostas, Clematis, Japanese anemones, Echinacea, Stokes’ asters, hydrangea, daylilies, daffodils, and Solomon's seal.
For vegetables, nothing beats hybrid tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, and broccoli romanesco. In the herb garden, we have several varieties of sage and oregano, tarragon, chives, garlic chives, parsley, rosemary, and coriander.
How do you think this garden reflects you and your family?
We all have a bit of a need for control and the garden is our attempt to control Mother Nature..not always successfully!
The masterpiece is finished! Now how are you going to change it next year?
It’s never finished! I have perennials to divide, plants to move, and seven garden catalogs to order from. And there’s this great local nursery that has a farmers’ market every Saturday—I’ll check out what they’ve just gotten in. After all, there’s an empty spot right over there...