R O O T E D I N V E R M O N T
In 1984 Mary, our son Nate, and I bought a farmhouse in Westminster West, Vermont that had been built by the Ranney family around 1775. Being professional garden designers, and the children of farming families who know plenty about the hard work that goes into making a farm, we knew we wanted to create a garden around the house that would incorporate as much of the history of the place as we could. After all, we were the first people outside the Ranney line to own and work the place, so we wanted to respect the past as it had been shaped by the ancestors of Harold and Joyce Ranney who live on an equally old farm just across their cornfield from us.
At the same time, we wanted to make our own garden, one that would link my New England past growing up on an orchard in Connecticut to Mary’s Old England past on a farm in the Cotswold Hills near Chipping Campden. Today we garden an acre and a half that is comprised of a variety of areas linked by lawn and gravel paths: an enclosed herb garden; an outdoor dining area and shady rock garden; two woodland gardens that bloom in the spring; a pair of 90 foot long perennial borders with a post and beam gazebo at the end of the central lawn path, along with several other areas. Views lead out from every part of our garden to acres of hayfields that were wrested from the woodland over 200 years ago by Harold Ranney’s ancestors. Sometimes we’ll be sitting in the garden on a July evening while Harold is baling hay off those fields and we think about what a wonderful feeling of continuity we share with him. By honoring the past of the place, we have woven a kind of bond between us as newcomers and the Ranney family, both past and present.
ABOVE LEFT: The plan for our garden. ABOVE RIGHT: Mary and Gordon Hayward.