Tag Archives: Westchester County New York

Garden Conservancy – Open Day Program in Westchester County, Chappaqua – Seeds of Design!

10 May


Garden design is the creation of plans for the layout and planting of gardens and landscapes. Gardens may be designed by garden owners themselves, or by professionals.  So one who loves the joy of gardening, would be so excited when the Garden Conservancy had announced Westchester County NY Open Day for private gardens!

One of the private gardens that are being showcased is by my dear friends, Shoba Vanchiswar and Murali Mani!  Although they are very modest, has won the 2007 Golden Trowel award from Garden Design magazine and not to mention, “The Best of” in Westchester Home Magazine!  These two were so delighted when I told them that I would be attending opening day and I was as well.  I love flowers and was looking forward to seeing their pride and joy!

Driving down the road of their home, parked cars were lined up…this is a very big deal!  I was afraid that there would be nowhere to park!  So when I saw a space; I said to myself out loud happily a “Yes”!  Walking towards the home, there were two ladies who greeted me and provided me with reading material on the Garden Conservancy and a handout giving a summary of the garden highlights I was about to see!

So as I am talking, I suddenly hear Shobha’s delightful voice “Letia, you’re here!”  After a great big hug and kiss, Shobha informs me that her job is to greet the visitors and her husband; Murali is in the rear of the home answering questions and offering help where needed!

So off I went on the tour.  In knowing that the garden was just beginning to bloom; I was surprised the variety of colors so far present!  It was very pleasing!  Walking on the side of the home; it was important for me to take my time – I was afraid that I would miss something.  You definitely could see the detail;  it was very thoughtful and it is expressed quite lovely all the features that a garden should have.   Jade succulents, a damask “Leda” tree,  a fig tree and a tree peony waiting to bloom!  Potted herbs of citrus and rosemary.

Then greeted by a wonderful lionhead fountain and a hidden secret of a wood burning brick oven – with a nice sun ray design.  Then you notice the checkerboard garden of beautiful phlox plants!  Even a beautiful Belgian espalier of apples and pears.  Upon turning, you are taken in by the all the little details that add to the garden’s charm; like the stack of books with Shobha’s name, glass bells aligned catching the sun or the airplane swing made of wood!

Upon looking back, there is a meadow of flowers and a greenhouse.  Then suddenly; you notice a tree house!  Instantly saying to myself, this garden has had a lot of good times and love!

There was a very cool breeze, as I walked through the meadow – I turned back to look at the home and a noticed there were many visitors.  Proving this three year old garden s the talk of Chappaqua indeed!  Shobha and Murali even provided classical music to play in the background!  Not the radio or a CD, but classical violinists who were all so escatic to climb the tree house and play music throughout the day of the opening!

The garden was open from 10 am – 4 pm; where I found myself staying to the end!  The day ended with Shobha and Murali’s beautiful moment…… both dancing lovingly in the meadow.

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Letia Mitchell LifeStyle & Design Letia 🙂

Seeds of Design LLC provides innovative garden designs and strategies to clients, so they can become their own gardeners.  continuously work with clients and plan for the long-term, because gardens must continue to evolve. 

Do what’s good for the environment, promote stewardship of land for succeeding generations. Combine form, function, beauty, color and fragrance in ways that personally suit the clientFor more information email, seedsofdesign@verizon.net  Also the website and Facebook page is available to see what’s happening in their gardening world ( Seeds of Design LLC or Facebook page).

The Garden Conservancy saves and shares outstanding American gardens for the education and inspiration of the public.  To learn more about our opportunities and programs; please go to http://www.gardenconservancy.org .

All photos by Letia Mitchell LifeStyle & Design LLC®

Silk Tree Cafe at the Hammond Musuem, Westchester County

23 Aug

I had the wonderful opportunity to be invited to lunch with one of the most dearest people, Shirley Perry.  A spry 87 year-old woman, who is so intriguing; she is also an artist and innovator in her own rite!  I could talk with her for days ; for all the knowledge she has in her petite 5’2” frame. 

For months, we have tried to get our schedules together to have lunch at the Hammond Museum in North Salem NY (Westchester County); for Shirley was once on the Board of Trustees years ago!   We had a reservation for noon and I promptly picked her up at 11:30 am.  Only to get a history lesson about the museum.  “I want you to know all about Natalie”.

Born in 1904, she was the daughter and heiress of millionaire adventurer and philanthropist John Hays Hammond, the novel King Solomon’s Mines; well it’s about him.. Natalie  Hays Hammond was an artist, with various talents:  a costume set designer for Broadway, an accomplished painter and author

Her brother who was a famous inventor, John Hays Hammond Jr. founded the Hammond Museum, where Natalie’s home is also part of the museum which details this beautiful Japanese Garden.  So you know this family was very innovative, he built Hammond Castle, which is also now a museum in Gloucester, MA.  

The Hammond Museum, here in North Salem, at one time held all the collected and inherited Ms. Hammond had collected through her lifetime, over 100,000 antiques and a library with over 70,000 volumes.   Her cousin Elizabeth Hammond Taylor; known as Margo; they collaborated together and built the museum.   Natalie was known for her drawings of the Madonna and her needlepoint works, where she published a book showing her craft.

Natalie Hays Hammond died in 1985 where she bequeathed to her cousin the right to live in the estate’s mansion for the duration of her life. Taylor; however thought differently and chose to move; leaving the house unoccupied; with a museum left to fend on its own. In November 2005, the museum negotiated the rights to own it; giving the attention Ms. Natalie Hays Hammond had wanted – a center for the performing arts as well as the visual arts.

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Now it’s time for lunch, it’s a beautiful day and we were directed to the Silk Tree Cafe.   Greeted by a lovely waitress, we were given a menu.  For starters, tea of course!  An Iced brewed tea for Shirley and for me,  a lovely tea kettle filled with hot vanilla almond tea.  We enjoyed the following…..

  • Steamed vegetable dumplings brought in a bamboo steamer
  • A cheese frittata
  • pannini filled with tomato, mozzarella and basil, sides watermelon medallions
  • Golden crepe filled with Nutella and topped with whip cream and cinnamon.

“Let me tell you about Natalie”,  so I put my listening ears on while enjoying the vegetable dumplings….Shirley went on to tell me about Natalie Hammond.

This is  my first time returning since Natalie died and was inquisitive about how the museum was doing.  Natalie was a vibrant and vicarious woman.  We would go out to dinner and talk about everything, she was quite infectious.  She loved art,  was part of King Tut’s first viewing to the world as a little girl and would often at the home of President William Taft.  Her life was extraordinary and lived lavishly, which would often result in not knowing the meaning of a balancing budget!”

We were delightfully interrupted by Lucy, the head of Catering at the Silk Tree Cafe and she welcomed us both for dining here.  We took the time to meet the other staff members at the Musuem and were told the museum had lost most of its funding, due to the state of the economy and were desperately  trying to do the very best they could.  Most of Natalie Hammond’s artwork has been sold, very soon after her death and the property; well it still requires major renovation work.  The staff is very optimistic and try to have inviting events to lure people, artists and organizations to the Hammond museum.

I couldn’t get over the fact, the place was simply charming.  Yes, it was a museum, but very intimate.  Not like the large museums of New York City, it has the quietness, but appealing feel of not being rushed and the allowance to take you time. 

As we are talking, Japanese paper lanterns are being affixed to a large white tent!  “We are having our 45th Annual Moonviewing concert and Picnic this evening.  This has been a tradition, started by Natalie since 1966!”  We visited the gift shop and I brought a Japanese motif, little but a conversation starter!

Now, if you are ever in Westchester County NY, near North Salem, do make it a point to stop in and see the Hammond Museum.  If you are looking for a quaint place to have a intimate wedding, social party or bar mitzvah…this place should be one of your choices.  

Shirley and I had a wonderful afternoon!  I just love history.  There are so many intriguing places in Westchester County, the Hammond Museum is one of them!

Here is a listing of books authored by Natalie Hays Hammond:

  • New Adventures in Needlepoint Design  1973
  • Anthology of Patterns 1949
  • C Later 1920’s Collection of Fine Photography of Natalie Hays Hammond 1927

Have I made you curious?  View the website; www.hammondmuseum.org to learn more and there’s a listing of their upcoming events.  If visting, perhaps you’ll be also interested in becoming a member at the Hammond Museum or give a donation, their email address is gardenprogram@yahoo.com.

Letia 🙂

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