by Jenevieve Hughes | July 6, 2014
Some days see the kind of clear blue skies that make perfect weather for visiting a garden.
This year’s annual Connecticut Historic Gardens Day was just such a day, as fourteen sites throughout the state opened wide their garden gates.
Nestled in the hills of western Connecticut is one bucolic site that hosts a handful of open garden days each summer, drawing visitors to a serene space designed in 1921 by renowned landscape architect Beatrix Farrand.
Once a private residence and today a Catholic lay community, Promisek at Three Rivers Farm offered visitors an afternoon spent in harmony with nature. When we arrived, the sounds of violins floated softly through the air, drawing us behind the house towards a garden enclosed by a stone wall. At the garden’s edge stood a towering Japanese lilac that cast a harmony of light and shadow upon the scene.
If this sounds like your cup of tea — and yes, there was tea, refreshingly cool and deliciously flavored — then you’re in luck, because you will find similar loveliness at Promisek’s next Open Garden Day on July 27.
On a tour of the garden, we learned about its history and evolution over time. And we learned about Promisek’s philosophy to tread lightly on the land – a philosophy that finds tangible expression in the way the garden is maintained: a commitment to organic methods similar to what would have been practiced when the garden was designed nearly a century ago.
Maintaining an organic garden means that understanding the ecology of the site is essential.
To prepare for Historic Gardens Day, Promisek’s Master Gardener Irene Skrybailo treated the roses with Neem oil when their leaves appeared this spring. But once blooms show up, she says, it’s time to stop: to protect the pollinators that are so essential to a healthy garden ecosystem.
Although Neem oil is an organic solution, it can still harm bees and other beneficial insects if used improperly. These pollinators already face a myriad of challenges when it comes to doing their job, so a respect for their presence is a necessity. For insects of a less favorable nature, however sticky traps can help identify pests in the garden.
It’s natural solutions like these that add to the sense of harmony at Three Rivers Farm: an ecosystem in balance.
Yet, in gardening – as in life – there are challenges.
Heavy spring rains made Neem application difficult this year, which meant a greater threat to roses posed by sawfly disease. Voles have a tendency to wreak havoc in garden beds until they meet a garter snake. And some plants selected nearly a century ago are proving to be invasive species that require special care today.
A wisteria tree, which hugs the house, and a “porcelain vine” climbing the stone wall in the garden, are two such invasive species needing steady maintenance. But while these challenges contribute to the complexity of the site, they also add to its beauty. Collectively, they create the effect of longevity: a space that has withstood the test of time.
Meanwhile, an abundance of bees and butterflies in the garden keeps visitors grounded in the present moment with their lively iterations.
When we arrived, our brochure told us that the word Promisek can be loosely translated as “The Land that the Goes on Forever.”
In this landscape at Three Rivers Farm, the forces of nature blend with the art of the garden, and the result is both meaningful and lasting.
There are no quick fixes here – simply a deep dedication to the harmony of the land, and to the simplicity and clarity that comes with time spent in a garden.
Editorial Note: Promisek at Three Rivers Farm is located in Bridgewater, Connecticut, and it welcomes visitors to its next Open Garden Day on July 27th between 12-4 p.m. There is a $5.00 entrance fee. For directions and further details, please visit http://www.promisek.org/garden or contact (860) 350-8226 for more information.