The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Remembering Wayne Winterrowd

Entrance Path to the House at North Hill

Wayne Winterrowd died at the age of 68 on September 17 at his home, North Hill, in Readsboro, VT. I first heard of Wayne and his partner Joe Eck when I read Rosemary Verey's book The American Man's Garden. The year was 1993 and I was beginning to gardening seriously. I was intrigued by this garden in Vermont and all the unusual plants they were able to grow. In those days, North Hill was opened to the public on the last day of June, July and August each year as a fundraiser for the Brattleboro AIDS project. Unfortunately, I had to work In Manchester, NH that June afternoon so I called to ask if I might come an hour earlier so I could make it back to work (a two-and-half hour drive) in time. I had no idea then what a rude and crazy request that was at the time. Wayne answered the phone and said of course, come earlier if you like, so I did. When I arrived to the garden an hour early, I could hear the weed trimmer working overtime getting the garden ready for the visitors. I met Joe at the garden entrance to explain the circumstances, I could tell immediately he was not pleased (and rightly so!) with this early bird. I suspect he was less pleased with Wayne. But when Wayne arrived at the scene, he could not have been more welcoming.

So my first visit to North Hill I had the place to myself for an hour. I had never seen anything like it. It was jaw-droppingly gorgeous. The design was wonderful and the plants were better. I could recognize few if any plants and I knew at that moment I wanted to have a garden. A REAL garden. Something special like this magical place.

About five years later, I took a weekend-long garden design class at North Hill with about 15 other gardeners. Wayne and Joe had lectures on garden design and each of the students presented their gardens and got advice from the dynamic duo. At the end of the class, I asked Wayne if I might return to North Hill later in the winter and spring to learn from the garden in the other seasons. I was interested in the bones of the garden and I wanted see the changes during the long winter months when the garden was dormant. Not surprisingly, Wayne immediately gave his blessing and I had the luxury of being in the garden by myself during the winter. I studied the garden in their book A Year at North Hill: Four Seasons in a Vermont Garden. I returned in November after a light snow and again in April when the Cornus mas, early magnolias and the daffodils were blooming. I cross-referenced each visit with the corresponding chapter in the book and had one of the best possible learning experiences a neophyte gardener could imagine.

The last time I heard from Wayne was last May. I had signed up for their symposium with Fergus Garrett and some other wonderful speakers but it had been filled to capacity. I received a typewritten letter informing me that the symposium was closed. At the bottom of the letter was a note written in Wayne's beautiful and distinctive handwriting. He was apologizing for the situation and inviting me to "please come visit the garden." I wish I had. Wayne was a very generous and thoughtful man. He was among the finest of our American garden writers. He will be greatly missed.


  1. What very sad news about a wonderful man.

  2. So sad, he sounds like a true class-act. I'll have to look up those books, they sound intriguing.

  3. Tim,
    He was a very kind man and talented garden writer. Thanks for your comment.

    I highly recommend all the books by Joe and Wayne. There last joint effort, Our Life in Gardens, would be a good one to try first. Thanks.

  4. I remember seeing them on an old episode of The Victory Garden and thinking "How can they do that in Vermont?".

    You have written a nice remembrance.

  5. What a great tribute! We are so saddened by this news. My husband and I met Wayne some 13 years ago at an event in Portland, OR. We were standing outside in the sun, and he came out and stood along side of us and chatted a while.
    'Annuals for Connoisseurs' is the book he autographed for us. Rest in peace, Wayne.

  6. Les,
    Thanks,I have always thatought if they can do it in VT, I should be able to do it in NH. It didn't always work out that way.

    Hi Di,
    Thanks for your comment.I'm not surprised at how gracious Wayne was. You should read Wayne's other books. He wrote another expanded book on annuals that is an authoritative encyclopedia called Annuals and Tender Plants for North American Gardens



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