Parks Officials by 6-0 Vote Back Garden Club’s Plan for ‘Parterre Garden’ at Waveny

Parks officials on Wednesday night voted unanimously in support of a longstanding nonprofit organization’s plan to redesign, re-plant and otherwise improve a prominent garden at Waveny.

Part of the Waveny Parterre Garden proposal backed by the New Canaan Garden Club (Ellen Zumbach Designs)

The New Canaan Garden Club’s plan for the “parterre garden”—located east of the balcony of Waveny House (down that first set of stairs, en route to the sledding hill)—is “timeless and classic” and “engages both visually and physically,” according to Tori Frazer, a member of the organization’s Waveny Walled Garden Committee.

“This has always been a formal garden,” Frazer told members of the Parks & Recreation Commission at their regular meeting, held at Lapham Community Center. “We intend for it to stay a formal garden. All the plantings and the plans are classic and will stand the test of time.”

The commission voted 6-0 in support of the plan. Those voting were commissioners Laura Costigan, Francesca Segalas, Sally Campbell, Doug Richardson, Jason Milligan and Matt Konspore. Commissioners Katie Owsley, Gene Goodman and Hank Green were absent. The Club’s plan now goes to the selectmen, Board of Finance and Town Council for approval.

The parterre garden at Waveny. Credit: Michael Dinan

Conceived by Garden Club President Ellen Zumbach and designed to be consistent with the mission of the Waveny Park Conservancy, the deer-proof redesigned parterre garden includes new boxwoods in existing beds, addition of benches and plantings in the garden itself as well as trees and shrubs above its “north wall.” The Club has described its intention with the plan to make the garden as a destination rather than a pass-through area.

Parks & Rec had put off a vote on the plan in order to get more detailed budgeting. Campbell, the commission’s chair, said she herself had gone through the spending plan “in detail with the Garden Club” to “make changes as we saw fit.”

Frazer described the budget as “conservative and comprehensive.” It includes just under $20,000 for actual plant materials, $10,000 for irrigation updates, $5,000 for labor, $1,100 in annual maintenance costs (the Club has agreed to fund maintenance for the first three years, at which time the task will revert to the town), and a contingency of just over $5,000, Frazer said.

“Again, we believe a lot of these numbers are conservative but we want to make sure no matter what, we have the funding,” she said.

The Garden Club is committing $21,000, Frazer said, and the Waveny Park Conservancy is going to match $20,000 through “a directed contribution” in support of the plan.

Commissioners asked whether it’s important to finish the brick wall and tree work prior to the planting (no), when the town plans to put public capital funding behind repair of the wall (March), what maintenance will involve after the planting (not much, the boxwoods will not grow much in the first year), what upkeep the town will be responsible for after year three (mostly trimming so the boxwoods keep their shape), whether weeding will be involved (some around the base of the boxwoods) and when the project is expected to get underway (work would start in February with a target completion of May).

The advisory body’s vote follows a November meeting that saw two representatives from a well-known local landscape architecture firm urge the commission to consider that the parterre garden was designed by the famed Olmsted Brothers company and should be preserved as such. Bill Pollack of New Canaan-based Keith Simpson Associates attended the commission’s meeting though he did not address the group this month.

[Note: This article has been corrected to reflect the $1,100 annual maintenance figure for the redesigned garden, not $11,000.]

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