Thirty years ago Diane Kurinsky and her husband Steve Gross built a house on a plot of land in Wendell that included fields and woodland. The land was a blank slate where they have managed to create a domestic landscape that welcomes and invites the visitor, luring her on to one delight after another.
When I drove up I parked my car in the circular drive that curves around a large ‘bed’ that Kurinsky calls the heather garden. The space is wild looking with large boulders, a couple of old trees, and the heathers she has planted where they show off well against the stones. There are also plants that enjoy the shade like hostas and ground covers, as well as young chamaecyparis
This bed is also the place where a visitor gets the first taste of the stunning metal sculptures made by Herb Gross, Steve’s father. Others are placed around the property.
Kurinsky met me on the drive accompanied by Cheryl Browning who owns the Scottish Highland cattle who enjoy Kurinsky’s pasture and who helps with the garden. Kurinsky said she and her husband come up with design together, but she and Browning provide most of the garden labor.
Browning set off for other Wendell chores, while Kurinsky and I strolled over toward the house. To the right of the house is a large curving lawn bordered by a series of garden rooms. A stroll along the edge of the lawn allows entrance into different worlds.
Closest to the drive is the Japanese garden nestled into a wall of evergreens at its back with a small musical waterfall that originates out of the dim shadiness. “My husband Steve is the designer and the one who has to have everything just so. I’m always ready to say, oh well, its all right. He designed the Japanese garden where a weeping larch is one of the unusual trees. We tuned the waterfall, changing the rocks and level of drop until we got a sound we liked, ” Kurinsky said. She later showed me the water reservoir with its filtering and recirculating system that her husband built and hid in the woods just behind the garden.
To the left of the Japanese garden is a small and well mulched fruit orchard with four or five young trees. The left side of this space is fenced to support two espaliered pear trees. Kurinsky said their pear trees have done especially well. Between the espaliered pear trees is a simple arch leading into the Herb Garden.
The Herb Garden can also be entered more elegantly from the lawn through an ornamental archway set into a low boxwood hedge that continues along the curve of the lawn. Opposite the arch is a trellis which forms the back ‘wall’. In the center is a sundial in a bed of thyme encircled by a brick path and then curving quadrants of herbs and flowers. A bench sits in front of the trellis, suggesting that someone, if not the gardener might actually sit to enjoy this scene.
Kurinsky said they have been inspired by their travels, and other gardens they have visited. Certainly the idea of garden rooms is a result of their trips to English gardens. The low hedge continues past a caged blueberry patch and then a large raised bed for asparagus. Kurinsky explained that Wendell is famous for being wet and for sitting on ledge. Raised beds have helped keep the soil from being soggy.
Finally the hedge borders a vegetable garden which was mostly planted to flowers this year. “Our daughter was married here this summer. We grew all the flowers for her wedding including flowers for the bouquets, boutonierres and the table decorations. The wedding colors were blue and white. I just happened to have a lot of blue pots and blue garden chairs, they weren’t bought for the occasion. I was dubious about having a limited palette, but it worked so well I am thinking about other color themes for the future,” Kurinsky said.
Many of those blue and white wedding flowers are still blooming on the brick patio laid by Gross, which is well furnished with comfortable chairs and a table where Kurinsky and Gross can enjoy outdoor meals. Other potted plants are also set out in groups on the patio, and along the brick walk that leads under a trellised arch and to a small courtyard and a little screened summerhouse. It then jogs alongside the back of the added on garage and workshop for Gross, then down a slope and onto the Sculpture Garden lawn.
Trellises are used imaginatively to delineate new spaces and the brick path is always tempting you on, just a little further to new pleasure.
What is clear from a tour of this beautiful garden is that Kurinsky and Gross are a sociable couple who have designed their domestic landscape to provide welcoming and unique spaces for friends to enjoy, and that they can routinely use themselves.
Between the Rows September 22, 2012