‘Both Classic and Modern’: New Canaan Garden Club Pursues New Planting Plan for ‘Parterre’ Garden at Waveny

One of New Canaan’s most venerable nonprofit organizations is seeking town approvals to improve a conspicuous area just behind Waveny House by re-planting it and adding benches for park users to enjoy.

The New Canaan Garden Club since last year has sought to introduce a low-maintenance, deer-proof boxwood design for the parterre garden east of the balcony behind Waveny House—an area that currently is a “pass-through” for visitors, according to the organization’s president, Ellen Zumbach, but could be far more.

Part of the Waveny Parterre Garden proposal (Ellen Zumbach Designs)

“It is the entrance in a lot of ways to the park and the intention was to take you through and down the stairs and have a wonderful experience in your park,” Zumbach told members of the Parks & Recreation Commission at their Oct. 11 meeting, held at Lapham Community Center. “But I also felt that if we opened up the parterres so that it allowed for air and movement around them, that they could take their time getting down the stairs and enjoy what is an incredible view of the fields from the north and west wall.”

Zumbach and Tori Frazer of Club’s Waveny Walled Garden Committee presented a design to the commission to replace what currently are boxwood plantings with annuals in the middle, with additional plantings around the perimeter of a brick wall there. It would include screening along the north wall of the area with hornbeam trees and rhododendrons, with benches facing east.

The parterre garden at Waveny. Credit: Michael Dinan

“We wanted a design that is both classic and modern, so that it hearkens to something that is traditional in a way but also will be something that will be timeless and will be beautiful for years to go come, hopefully as the park hopefully will be for all the New Canaan residents,” Frazer said.

Zumbach’s design includes all plantings in the garden, trees and shrubs above the “north wall” of the parterre garden, as well as boxwoods in the existing beds around the fountain on both sides of the stairs that lead down toward the sledding hill and Waveny Pond. The club has committed $20,000 toward the project—which has the blessing of the Waveny Park Conservancy, they said—and that organization also has offered to cover any additional funding needed from a generous $20,000 gift from the Harlan and Lois Anderson Family Foundation.

Parks & Rec requested a more detailed budget—line items such as irrigation work had yet be finalized as hard estimates at the time of the meeting—and asked that the Club return in November for formal support. The Garden Club’s proposed timeline would see additional town approvals won in the next four months, with a plan to install the new parterre garden plantings in the spring for a June 1, 2018 completion date.

“I think it would look beautiful and my hat’s off to you,” Chairman Sally Campbell said.

Commissioners asked whether there is irrigation to the area currently (yes but it has to be revamped), whether anything there now is salvageable (the annuals in the center would die anyway though the current boxwood might be replanted elsewhere), whether there’s concern about the integrity of the brick wall given the roots of the proposed trees (the plan is to plant them far enough away though we will know more once the existing trees come down in late October or early November) and how fragile will the new plantings be, given that children often run through this area (boxwoods are pretty hearty and the ones the Garden Club is looking at are fairly disease-resistant).

Commissioner Kit Devereaux asked how long it would be before the new plantings start to fill in.

Zumbach responded that the plants she had in mind would “have some substance to them” and would be about 24 inches wide. “They will be close, you might have six inches between them. The idea is, you want them to grow close together. But it would probably take definitely a year or two for them. I wouldn’t even prune them, maybe the tops, but I would not get serious about pruning them. Let them continue to grow.”

Frazer said that at no time would the area appear unseemly or under-planted, and added that the town’s maintenance in the area would not increase over what it is currently in the new plan.

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