The Bakwin Garden: A Woodland Treasure in New York’s Hudson Valley
For years I have driven by the stately entrance to the Bakwin house and grounds in Ossining, NY, north of New York City, and wished I could peer inside. Thanks to Michael Bakwin and the Garden Conservancy Open Days that opportunity presented itself on a clear and dry August morning. I visited the 50 acre property on the day it was open to the public and was greeted by Mr. Bakwin and Ed Impara, horticulturalist and head of the grounds. Ed very kindly walked around a portion of the 10-acre landscaped grounds with me, pointing out his selection of plants for the diverse habitats that are typical of the rugged native landscape of southern New York State.
The first thing that caught my eye was the three-acre pond and the Tudor-style house perched on a rock outcrop, overlooking the water. It was built by Mr. Bakwin’s parents in 1932 who must have known about the power of a high point because its location is quite commanding. From here, you can enjoy panoramic views of the gardens, towering trees and a distant orchard and vegetable garden.
Left: On the pond’s edge, White Angel’s Trumpet (Datura inoxia) blooms alongside multi-colored Croton foliage and the sunny Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’). In the distance, floating in the pond, is Mr. Bakwin’s favorite rubber duck.
As usual, the magic of water is a primary draw and you cannot help but head straight to the pond. Many beautiful plantings can be found here, including a Japanese-inspired garden.
There is also an inviting red bridge that leads to a rustic walk that loops around the entire pond. The choice of red for the bridge follows Asian tradition and creates a punchy contrast to all the green. It looks especially good next to the ‘Dragon’s Eye’ Japanese red pine (Pinus densiflora 'Oculus Draconis').
I also found two of my favorite perennial plants planted nearby. The first is clustered mountainmint (Pycnanthemum muticum). It blooms in August and the nectar it provides makes it a pollinator magnet, attracting butterflies, bees, wasps and moths. The other is the moisture-loving, variegated Japanese iris (Iris ensata ‘Variegata’), providing a vigorous accent of grassy green and white-striped leaves in summer. In spring it has delicate purple flowers. The combination of the two plants, shown here, creates a serene and fairly trouble-free white garden.
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The shady environs of much of the Bakwin property makes it hospitable for many popular shade perennials. In one area, a long bed of the variegated Solomon’s seal (Polygonum odoratum ‘Variegatum’) acts as a foundation planting of sorts at the base of the house. This plant, named the 2013 Perennial Plant of the Year by the members of the Perennial Plant Association, attests to its time-tested durability. It is hardy, adaptable, low-maintenance, and generally pest free and disease resistant. Best of all, it looks great spring through fall!
About the Author
Jan Johnsen has a knack for making gardens look glorious and feel harmonious. Get her book here: Heaven is a Garden: Designing Serene Spaces for Inspiration and Reflection