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October 2010


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FEATURES

Elegant Perfection
By Jane Garmey
Photographs by John M. Hall
 
Excerpted from Private Gardens of Connecticut (Monacelli Press, 2010)
 

THE EXQUISITE GARDENS OF OSCAR AND ANNETTE DE LA RENTA ARE A LABOR OF LOVE—AND A WORK IN PROGRESS

Click on any photo for a larger gallery view.

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The spare geometry of Oscar and Annette de la Renta’s mostly green garden is all about structure and architecture. She loves the discipline and drama of a precisely cut line. He focuses his attention more on the plantings and decorative elements. Their collaboration has resulted in a garden in which high yew hedges enclose a succession of simple garden rooms, three giant wedding-cake yew topiaries add drama to the vista of a magnificent double allée of pear trees, and the natural beauty of native birches, oaks and sugar maples contrasts with the rigorous geometry of clipped boxwood and conical yews.

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Many years ago, when de la Renta invited Russell Page, the great British landscape artist, to visit his newly purchased Connecticut farm and give him some advice, he was told in no uncertain terms that panoramic views and gardens do not mix. Standing on the terrace that stretched the width of the rear of the house, Page agreed that the view of open hillside and distant woods was indeed extraordinary, but then pronounced that this was no place to have a garden, since a garden is a room and rooms need walls, not views.

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Page advised framing and enhancing the view but making a garden on lower, more protected ground to the far left of the house, where there was a barn. Although not the advice he had expected, de la Renta took it seriously. Today there is no garden at the rear of the house, only a long flagstone terrace (both the house and the terrace have been considerably extended) where large pots of agapanthus and boxwood are all that separate the house from its glorious view.

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