Gardening, from Hobby to Obsession

 By Bill Primavera

Home Guru

The love for one’s home and property can sometimes produce extraordinary surprises in unexpected locations. And sometimes a whim can turn to an obsession, but a magnificent one.

I was reminded of this when my friend and fellow realtor Andi DePalma told me about a very unusual property in a more rural part of Cortlandt Manor in upper Westchester that has been selected this year by The Garden Conservancy for its national “Open Days” program that invites the public to visit private gardens.

Andi had arranged for a tour of the property for our local garden club, and when she showed me pictures of various vistas of the garden, I couldn’t believe that it was located in a community of midscale to modest homes rather than in one of our most exclusive estate areas. Curious, I asked for a sneak preview.  

From the moment I stepped out of my car, I was enveloped by a garden fantasy land with an Asian theme.  The landscaping all but obscured the modest ranch-style home it surrounds.

The half acre lot, ascending somewhat sharply from the road, hosts not a single inch of lawn. Instead, there are stone walls distinguishing multiple levels of trees, plantings, statuary, paths, architectural elements and structures, including bridges over a stone-lined dry river bed and a large pagoda painted bright red.

Not everything is visible at once, but walking along winding stone paths, up and down and across the property, there are many surprises that come into view as one social setting after another comes into view.

When I met the owner, Dan Meyer, he admitted that, over the past five years of his obsession with his landscape, he had spent considerably more money on the garden than the value of his home in an area where the average price is about $400,000. Why then would anyone spend more money on landscaping alone than can possibly be recouped when he chooses to sell his house?

“I don’t know, it just happened,” Meyer said. “I was driving along Route 9 and saw a new Asian shop that had opened up and there was this giant seven and a half foot long granite dragon in front,” he said, pointing to the statue now guarding the front of his house. “I’ve always loved Asian art, and I had to have it. I bought it along with two large granite Foo dogs, and I got caught up in it.” 

Before Meyer got caught up in landscaping, his property was “mostly just grass.”  Today there is not a single blade of grass to be found. Instead, the property offers a dense and eclectic mix of unusual deciduous trees, conifers, shrubs, and perennials that include maple in many varieties, ginkgo, weeping hemlock, umbrella pine, wine and roses weigela, a Montgomery blue spruce grafted on a weeping Norway, and a tall umbrella pine. 

Other plantings catch the eye endlessly, from azaleas and rhododendron, to yellow lady-slipper orchids and ferns, all enhanced with the color of annual plantings of impatiens and dragon-wing begonias. And where some open area is required to separate the many settings to pause, sit and reflect, various ground covers step in to serve.

“So how is it to not worry about mowing grass?” I asked, only to have Meyer reply, “But oh, the mulching and weeding!”  Having developed back problems mid-way into his project, though unrelated to the rigors of gardening, Meyer now trains workers to do the plantings and maintenance. “Now I just say, plant this here, and move that there,” he said.

During a summer draught two years ago, Meyer says that he watered heavily to protect his investment. “The average water bill was $60, but mine for that period was $360.00,” he confessed. The town asked us not to water our lawns, but I told them that I wasn’t watering my lawn because I didn’t have one! By that time, they knew about my garden and let me get away with it.”

The date set by The Garden Conservancy for touring Meyer’s property, located at 39 Lockwood Road, is Sunday, July 31, from 10 am to 4 pm. To learn about securing tickets, visit: 

www.GardenConservancy.org and go to the “Open Days” tab. 

Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® (www.PrimaveraHomes.com), affiliated with Coldwell Banker, and a marketing practitioner (www.PrimaveraPR.com). For questions or comments about the housing market, or selling or buying a home, he can be reached directly at 914-522-2076.