The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Untermyer Gardens in Yonkers

While I was in New York to hear fellow blogger Thomas Rainer's talk  "Designing with Native Plants" at the NYBG, I had the opportunity to visit The Untermyer Gardens in Yonkers with some gardening friends. The Untermyer Gardens are a 34 acre public park owned by the city of Yonkers that was once a 150 acre estate overlooking the Hudson River owned by a wealthy lawyer named Samuel Untermyer. Untermyer created one of the most celebrated gardens in the United States during the 1920's and 1930's. When Untermyer died in 1940, the gardens were left unattended until 1946 when the City of Yonkers acquired the parcel. Over the years, the gardens were not maintained and they became overgrown and the structure of the garden became a ruin. Recently, the Yonkers Parks Department with input from Marco Polo Stufano, founding Director of Horticulture at Wave Hill, The Untermyer Gardens are being rehabilitated and open to the public.


The central feature of The Untermyer Gardens is the Walled Garden, which gets its inspiration from the ancient gardens of Indo-Persia. The Walled Garden is divided into quadrants by waterways and was intended to mimic a paradise on earth.

                            

Formal plantings in Persion-Inspired Garden Design


 The Open Air Amphitheater


 The Floor of the empty reflecting pool


Close up of a Sea Horse in the mosaic


The details of this wall were repeated in the wrought iron gate below.


The Vista Steps were inspired by the descending stairs at the Villa D'Este in Italy.


A massive tree branch added a modernistic structure along the Vista Steps.


At the base of the Vista Steps is the Overlook.  The two columns framing the view of the Hudson River and the Palisades are 2,000 year old monolithic Roman cipollino marble columns from the estate of Stanford White.


Columns of the former Rose Garden


A view of the Hudson River


                   The Gatehouse, now an abandoned ruin, and remnants of the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail


Hidden from view of the Walled Garden is a folly called the Temple of Love.


 The Temple of Love was built by a Genoese stone mason named Charles Davite, whose body of work included the Paris Exposition, the St. Louis Exposition and at the Frick Museum.


The Temple of Love's stone work is best viewed from below.


The Temple of Love overlooks a magnificent view of the Hudson River and the Palisades. During the summer months, water courses down the waterfalls into the ponds below. The Untemyer Gardens are very much a romantic ruin. I'm not sure I want them to be brought completely back to their former "perfect" splendor.



25 comments:

  1. Thanks for the Untermeyer tour, Michael. I've been wanting to see the garden. Do you know who is funding the restoration, and what the plans are for restoration? I too hope it won't be restored to pristine condition (which I doubt it will). It was a good time of year to see the "bones."

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    1. James, the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy is a non-profit organization that is trying to restore the Samuel Untermyer’s gardens. I don't know a lot more than that. I think it is unlikely they will have the resources to fully restore the gardens. Their website has some nice photos of the gardens in summer.

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  2. What an interesting place. Hope that they renovate it sympathetically. we used to visit an old house and garden left to decay called the palace of Estoi in the Algarve, Portugal. It had great features, plenty of character, atmosphere and beautiful shrubs and trees. Last time we visited, it had been "renovated" into a pousada (hotel) and all the gardens had been lost and the building modernised, except for the frescoes on the ceiling in the toilets.

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    1. I am confident, by looking at who is on the board, that the restoration will be a thoughtful one. I want to see it when the plants are in bloom in the summer.

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  3. How amazing, Michael, this echo of the past is, and how amazing it is being saved. Like you, I kind of like its forlornness and hope it doesn't become another must-see destination, over-exposed.
    I like the idea of the garden symbolising Paradise. That's not something we think of now so much, for it's become popular to think we already have Paradise.
    Of course a garden can be just as beautiful in its senescence as it ever was in its glory. Going slow is good.


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    1. Faisal, I am very interested in garden history and understanding it better as I work to create my own garden of eden (paradise). Alll good art understands what came before, don't you think?

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  4. We hope that you'll come back later in the season to see the gardens. Stop by and say hello to the gardeners.

    The big project for this year is the installation of a deer fence which will allow us to begin planting areas outside of the Walled Garden. The gardens are very much a work in progress.

    One note: the Temple of Love did in Untermyer's day have water flowing but today the structure does not have current plumbing. We are currently raising funds to replumb it so the waterfalls will run again. There is so much to do. It is an amazing thing to be involved in the restoration of a place like this.

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    1. Thanks for finding my post and commenting. This project is very exciting! I have seen photographs of the garden in summer and it looks lush and gorgeous. I know it isn't finished, but it is always instructional to see a work in progress. It goes to show how important a good design is. If the design is excellent, there will always a reason to resurrect or renovate a neglected garden. So many modern gardens in America are all plants without a well thought out design. It is hard to imagine anyone wanting to do what you are doing in 50 years if the design isn't coherent.
      I will return and I'm eager to talk shop with the gardeners. Thanks again for commenting. I really appreciate it.

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  5. So glad to find this post as I recently learned about this garden when they followed me on twitter (it's not a total waste of time ;-) ) and I knew nothing about it. Will be in NYC in a couple of weeks (with my sister who happens to live in Manchester and works at The Currier) and will try and visit. Quite intriguing and a spectacular setting comparable to that of Wave Hill which must be to the South, not too far away?

    I just started a blog and my last post is about Dumbarton Oaks, a garden of the same era and ambition. However, it has remained in more or less pristine condition since the owners turned it over to Harvard in the 1940s. Definitely worth a visit if you haven't seen.

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    1. Hi Sarah,
      I took a quick look at your blog, its great! You will love the Untermyer Gardens. Yes, it is north of Wave Hill with equally enviable views of the palisades. I've been lucky enough to visit Dumbarton Oaks a couple times and it is a favorite of mine. I look forward to following your blog!

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    2. Hi Sarah,
      There should be a bit more green by the time you visit - and possibly a bunch of pink as I think the cherries are due just about then. As MBG said, we are north of Wave Hill on the Hudson River. Do stop by and say hello. This is one of the two gardeners writing. Hi, I'm Jessica and my coworker is Timothy. Since it is springtime we may be a bit busy, but it is always good to meet other gardeners.

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  6. that´s the kind of places I like `the overgrown barocquesque´ like the gardens one visit and can say; "this has once been a fantastic garden", I even try to make that sense and feeling in my own garden.

    thanks for this interesting post from this interesting place, I hope nobody will ruin it!!

    Kjeld

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    1. I agree, Kjeld. Can anything but time achieve this feeling in a garden? The bones being so strong is important to making it magical as a ruin.

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  7. Hi, I've been a few times, most recently yesterday, but not sure how to get to Temple of Love.

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    1. Hi Dan,
      The Temple of Love is south of the Walled Garden, also on the Hudson. If you go up the driveway, there is a path on left. It is difficult to see but if you are looking for a path and the Temple on the distance, I think you will see it.
      Good luck!! I was looking for a map of the grounds but I could't find it. Thanks for commenting.

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    2. There are maps in the brochures just inside the door of the Walled Garden. Maybe we should label the box "brochure with map" ...?

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    3. Is there a map on your website? It might be an idea to consider. The only map I could find was here: www.yonkersghostinvestigators.com. It would be a shame for someone to miss the Temple of Love! Thanks for the heels up about the map in the Walled Garden.

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  8. http://www.untermyergardens.org/visit1.html
    We added a map when we redid the website earlier this month!

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    1. I see the Google map with directions to the garden. Do you have a map of the grounds of the garden? I couldn't find one. What page is it one?
      Thanks!

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    1. I finally found it. Just a friendly suggestion, but you might want to label it somehow in the header (I'd suggest under 'The Gardens' ) so it is easier to find. On my laptop the only way I found it was to scroll down after I knew I was looking for it. I suspect others might have the same problem. Other than that , it is a great website. Thanks for all your follow up. I look forward to stopping in and meeting you in person!

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  10. I like a good ruin as much as the next guy, but this one might need a little nudge closer to rehab.

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    1. That's good to hear, Les. I think that is the plan.

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