Trade Secrets Is Back Again With Plants and Garden Tours
To get to Joan Larnedâ€™s Millstone Farm in Kent, travelers cover twisty, narrow roads and pass white clapboard farmhouses with black shutters, red barns, cows and just so much bucolic beauty that you think it couldnâ€™t get any better. But pull into her driveway, passing the original house built in 1800, to Larnedâ€™s current abode, which is a converted tobacco barn, and you see the destination is all that and more. Except no cows.
There are stone walls. Pergolas. An orchard. Benches. Pathways leading to secret glens. A pond. A quartet of quince trees with a sundial at the crossroads. â€œRoomsâ€ of perennials. Piles of mulch. An old sugar shack. A rustic bridge over a meandering stream.
Larned, whose spread is part of the Trade Secrets tour this Sunday, says she was born gardening. She seems to have an intuitive sense of what belongs. The property, which has been in her family for more than 120 years, has been a working farm, a weekenderâ€™s retreat and is now a full-time residence. Though Larned did not volunteer her age â€” she retired from her job at Columbia University in 1992 and has a halo of white hair â€” she is considerably older than the apple orchard, which she planted after she inherited the property from her mother in 1985. At that time, she said, the perennial garden was almost grassed over and there were only a few irises and peonies surviving. So, everything visitors see on the tour is there because of Larned. She spends every waking hour working in or at least thinking about the garden. Itâ€™s a litany that will be familiar to everyone who has ever held a spade or a clipper; weeding, transplanting, pruning, mulching, and moving. â€œMoving things that you thought you put in the perfect place but now it just isnâ€™t right,â€ she said.
Deb Munson, co-chair of the Trade Secrets event and a professional garden designer, said what she loves about Larnedâ€™s garden is how well it fits into the landscape. â€œWe have to teach people to work with nature not against it.â€ Larned credits Robin Zitter, a local landscaper who helps her with the garden, for this. â€œRobin has totally changed my life,â€ she said. â€œShe made me really appreciate the place and the land.â€
But Larned is very much responsible for the look of the garden and its sensibility as an old New England farm. â€œItâ€™s always a work in progress,â€ she said. â€œI see piles of dirt and rock and itâ€™s not perfect. Itâ€™s a farm.â€ Beyond the stone walls are hayfields, a vegetable garden and a half-acre blueberry patch, which (readers take note) is open in late summer for â€œpick your ownâ€ customers.
Gardens are living works of art, and Millstone Farm is a perfect blending of natural landscape, creative vision and an intuitive sense of beauty.
Trade Secrets is an annual garden event that benefits Women Support Services. It has two component: the plant and garden accessories sale on Saturday, May 15, at Lion Rock Farm on Route 41 in Sharon and a tour of four local gardens on Sunday, May 16. For tour and ticket information go to tradesecretsct.com.