Garden tours: See 4 great ones in northern Westchester
For several years now, Barbara Israel has been the leading dealer in the country in garden antiquities, and her delightful 5-acre property in Katonah is her showroom. Here at Steepway Farm you'll find some 250 sculptures, benches, animals, obelisks, chairs, finials, fountains and other priceless treasures tucked among the many colorful perennial beds, groves of trees and shady allees.
Except for a few pieces from her personal collection, everything in the beds and display areas around the 1830 farmhouse is for sale. Prices range from $75 for a small, cast-stone animal, all the way up to $175,000 for a rare statue with an important maker. Most pieces are in the $2,500 to $25,000 range.
Come see for yourself on Sunday, when Israel's garden will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. as part of the Cold Spring-based Garden Conservancy's Open Days Program. Three other very impressive gardens in northern Westchester will also be open on Sunday. (Details later in this story, plus tips on how to maintain garden furnishings))
Following the Garden Conservancy's Open Days Program can be a great way to play tourist in your own town. You simply pay $7 at the gate, up from the $5 it's been for 20 years, for a chance to wander around some of the best private gardens in the country that are open for a single day a year. A few gardens open a second day in summer or fall.
Israel is the author of the definitive "Antique Garden Ornament: Two Centuries of American Taste" (Harry N. Abrams, 1999). Her garden has been a mainstay of the Open Days Program for a few years, and visitors will see some new things this year, partly because of damage from Superstorm Sandy and a microburst that tore through the front of the property.
"We lost two dozen trees," says site manager Patrick Dunne.
A walled and formal rose garden has taken the place of a vegetable garden, and a nearby wildflower meadow is taking on a nice shape a couple of years after it was seeded with plants native to the Northeast.
And of course there are always new sculptures and other objects to admire. This year, Israel is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the launch of her business, Barbara Israel Garden Antiques. For more information, visit bi-gardenantiques.com.
The farmhouse at Steepway Farm dates to 1830. Barbara and Tom Israel bought the property in 1980. A huge pachysandra bed sits between the front of the house and Mount Holly Road. (Photo: Mark Vergari/The Journal News)
IF YOU GO
These four Westchester gardens will be open on June 7 as part of the Garden Conservancy's Open Days Program.
• Tom and Barbara Israel, 296 Mount Holly Road, Katonah. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Vivian and Ed Merrin, 2547 Maple Ave., Cortlandt. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Also July 26.
• Keeler Hill Farm, 64 Keeler Lane, North Salem. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Leslie and John Needham — River Hills, 14 Mianus River Road, Bedford. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Open Days are rain or shine and no advance reservations are needed. Admission is $7 per garden. For more information, call 888-842-2442 or visit www.gardenconservancy.org/opendays.
Old boxwood hedges line the edges of the perennial border. (Photo: Mark Vergari/The Journal News)
BARBARA ISRAEL TO BE HONORED
At its third annual Summer Solstice Sunset Soirée at Untermyer Gardens in Yonkers on June 16, the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy will honor Barbara Israel for her "significant contributions to garden ornament scholarship and preservation in New York and the nation," says Stephen F. Byrns, chairman of the conservancy.
Martha Stewart, Israel's neighbor in Katonah and honorary chair of the fundraising gala, will introduce her.
Tickets cost $350 to $5,000. For more information, visit untermyergardens.org.
Most of the inventory of garden antiquities is in a display area behind the house. In the foreground is a classical style composition stone bust marked “Papini A” for the Giacomo Papini firm, Italian, c.1930. Behind it is a Cotswold stone finial, English, c.1870, once part of a larger architectural piece. (Photo: Mark Vergari/The Journal News)
HOW TO MAINTAIN GARDEN FURNISHINGS
• Empty fountains and birdbaths before the first frost. Winter covers will keep fountains free of snow and ice.
• Store wood furniture inside for the winter.
• Tip over and cover urns in preparation for winter.
• Watch cast-iron furniture for rust, then wire brush, prime and paint as needed.
• Wrap fountains in plastic sheeting to keep them free of snow and ice.
• Protect stone statues from harsh winter winds — bring them indoors or wrap them in burlap or winter covers.
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