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History Makers

Garden Geneaology By Suzanne Clary

T he suburbs of Fairfield County are both sought after and sometimes derided – for their green open spaces.Thousands of apartment dwellers move out of Manhattan each year tempted by the idea of fairer pastures and a chance to give their kids the same dirt-stained, Bactined knees of their own childhoods. I am one of those people. I made the move from West End Avenue to Rye transported by memories of sprigs of white lilacs and red Hershey azaleas that my Italian grandmother cut from our garden and wove into wreaths for my hair for May Day. I thought of muggy 4th of July nights running barefoot while chasing fireflies, the soft, wet Kentucky bluegrass breaking and catching and sticking between my toes, the bent blades found dried and brittle in the bed sheets the next morning. Thus inspired by my inner six year old, I persuaded my husband to leave his bachelor’s apartment for a tiny, “stockbroker” Tudor Revival with hewn beams and a yard full of deer. The house was covered in invasive bittersweet vines if not running-amok beanstalks. The roof was Necco wafer multicolored slate and years of neglect had nibbled away at it until it leaked even during a sun-shower. Best of all, it sat on an unbelievable three-quarter acre lot with room for a vegetable bed. A cracked marble bench hidden in a patch of forsythia hinted at a previous garden that had been let go. I would rescue it. The land was rocky and narrow but I was convinced I could transform it. That said, the moment we moved we became a stereotype – suburbanites. Many of us get skewered rightly or wrongly, particularly for what’s seen as a lawn mentality. There is no dearth of TV sitcoms that have lambasted the foibles of “our

kind.” People get overzealous with the Round Up bottle. Front, side and back strips are overly manicured like putting greens. Some expanses are cropped to the roots to create miniature soccer fields for not yet tattooed little Beckham aspirants. All these verdant spaces, row upon row, separated

by arborvitae hedges have something in common. Someone has to take care of them. Maybe it’s you or your spouse or the gangly high-schooler next door. More often it’s a handyman you inherited along with the deed to your house. But in the heyday of grand estates in Rye, Greenwich and Long

ABOVE AND OPPOSITE: MARGARET RYAN

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