Friday, March 23, 2012
This year's extremely mild winter in the Mid-Atlantic region, in fact the entire Northeastern portion of the country, has segued into an equally dramatic Spring. Events that ordinarily span several months seem piled into a couple of weeks. For me, this means that all the little projects required to get our property up and running for the season are jammed into the last two weeks of March.
Our place, Hickory Hill, (so named well before Bobby Kennedy's place in Virginia) sits abreast the Wissahickon Valley in Philadelphia. The house dates from the 1840's and was extensively landscaped by architect Frank Miles Day, in whose family it remained for some 70 years.
To me, of course, this means hundreds of linear feet of stone walls built in the 1890's upon which gravity has had it's irresistible way. It seems that every year there is some stretch of wall that needs rectifying, as you might imagine, it's Sisyphean at it's most literal. My friend Martin Smith, a stone mason and Brit trained in the National Trust is a fixture at our place. He is to dry stone walls what Jose Garces is to Tapas.
Between Martin working on the walls and steps in the front border and Mary Costello's (our incredibly gifted horticulturalist/garden visionary) team tinkering in the beds and trying to keep the fountain in the rose garden water tight, there seems to be a feverish buzz of activity. Also dating from the 1890's, this water feature is an annual frustration...water; can't keep it out of a boat and can't keep it in a fountain.