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‘To a large extent,’ admits art historian and teacher, Magda Salvesen, ‘I wrote this book for myself’. Nonetheless, New York natives, newcomers and tourists, as well as art, landscape design and horticulture experts and enthusiasts, could easily make Exploring Gardens & Green Spaces from Connecticut to the Delaware Valley their go-to guide for day-trip adventures.
As an art historian, Salvesen’s focus had long been on the historical houses, landscapes and gardens of her native Britain and of Europe. Then, after moving to New York, she began exploring the gardens within reach of her adopted city. Exploring Gardens & Green Spaces supplies the reader with concise information about the history, design and care of a wide range of green spaces, including former private estates and historic houses, sculpture parks and museums, arboretums and specialty gardens, cemeteries and colleges campuses in five states, but all within a three-hour drive of New York City. Practical travel considerations, including maps, directions, public transportation, hours, facilities, etc. are supplemented by the inclusion of nearby eateries and other places of interest in the area – information that can make any daytrip much more pleasant.
Having visited a number of the gardens included in this book, I found the descriptions both accurate and insightful. Myriad colour photos round out the author’s written pictures. Of particular interest to the garden designer and horticulturalist is the inclusion of information pertaining to the care and staffing of each garden, which brings to light the difficulty of maintaining public gardens in today’s economy.
Among the gardens that have a special focus are three that beautifully integrate landscape and art: Storm King, Dia:Beacon, and the Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens.
About an hour north of the city, Storm King Art Center features ‘monumental sculpture in great open spaces, as well as more modestly scaled pieces in intimate settings’. The Center’s 500 acres and miles of views easily accommodate works of all sizes. Large-scale works, such as those of Mark di Suvero, Alexander Calder and Alexander Liberman, can be fully appreciated in this expansive setting. Not to be missed site-specific works include Richard Serra’s Schunnemunk Fork (1990-91), Andy Goldsworthy’s wandering Wall (1997-1998), and the transcendent Wavefield by Maya Lin, who created Washington’s Vietnam War Memorial. The Center’s rolling green hills and meadows with avenues and groves of trees have been more recently augmented with sculptural swaths of native grasses and legumes.
On the other side of the Hudson, Dia:Beacon boasts 300,000 square feet of light-filled galleries containing the works of artists who came to the fore in the 1960s, including Dan Flavin, Donald Judd and Walter De Maria. The surrounding landscape, designed by Robert Irwin, offers innovative planting schemes and views of the Hudson River.
Even closer to the city, the Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens at PepsiCo was started by its namesake, who served as the company’s CEO from 197–86. Works by Henry Moore, Claes Oldenburg and Jean Dubuffet, are among this collection of 20th-century art sited superbly on 168 acres enhanced by renowned landscape designer Russell Page.
Hundreds of other gardens included in Exploring Gardens & Green Spaces will also entice the curious to explore the city’s surroundings. The only question will be, ‘Where do we go next?’
Exploring Gardens & Green Spaces from Connecticut to the Delaware Valley by Magda Salvesen is published by W.W. Norton & Company, 2011. 368 pp., over 450 colour illus.ISBN 978-0-70626-0