UES 62

Island of the 1920s through the 1940s, acres upon acres of formal gardens, meadows and specimen trees awaited the attention of a full green-fingered staff as indicated by census sheets of the time and fragile linen landscape plans filed away in numerous metal depositories. Who were these men (few women were listed in this profession at the time though they undoubtedly helped) and their families who tilled the earth and trained the hollyhocks before the advent of Smith and Hawkins catalogs? We know some names, and a few pictures survive to show the fruits and flowers of their labor. Though increasingly many of the estates they supervised have been subdivided or completely replaced with corporate parks, sometimes we get a glimpse of the past, as in this classic black and white “Sabrina” style photo of Margaret Ryan, who lived at the Jay Estate with her father John and sister Mary in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Numerous caretakers and their families, like the Ryans, left a green genealogy, not in the history books or on maps but in the landscape. As the ground thaws and heaves this spring, we are still enjoying the belts of heirloom Poet’s daffodils they planted or the old fashioned rosebushes they trained to cover wrought iron gates and spruce arbors. The next time you see an old wooden pergola or stone wall ariot with trumpet honeysuckle or purple clematis, say a quiet thanks to these forgotten gardeners whose perennial plantings are the DNA of springtime! --- Suzanne Clary is the President of the Jay Heritage Center at the historic Jay Estate. Daffodils planted by the Ryan Family will be featured in the upcoming Daffodil Show hosted by the Little Garden Club of Rye on April 19th. Admission is free. *

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