Stonecrop & Manitoga | Cold Spring – Garrison, New York

Posted by on August 28, 2004
We have so many unusual places in this Hudson Valley of ours. I was fortunate to get to see a couple of them recently, when I went on a tour with the Millbrook Garden Club to the amazing gardens at Stonecrop and the even more amazing Manitoga. Both are in the Cold Spring / Garrison area, and just a short drive from Central Dutchess.Stonecrop is a garden that is lovingly cared for by the Cabot Family, on property that has been in the family for a few generations. Frank Cabot is a revered name among gardeners, since he has not only been the presence behind his own gardens, but he started the Garden Conservancy. The most visible thing the Garden Conservancy does is to arrange for us mortals to see lovely gardens all around the area, which would otherwise be private and not visitable. The Cabots (he has the apparent perfect helpmate in his wife, Anne) also maintain Les Quatres Vents, a stunning environment at their home in Quebec, along the St. Lawrence River. Rumor has it that the Cabots are now trying their hand at gardening in New Zealand.

I can now underscore how lucky we are here in the valley to have a garden of this magnitude nearby, since I just returned from a trip all the way up to La Malbaie on the shores of the St. Lawrence (approximately 10 hours drive) just to see the gardens at Les Quatres Vents. It was well worth it and you’ll be hearing about it in this column soon, but think about 45 minutes instead of 10 hours and you’ll get my drift.

Stonecrop can be visited from 10:00 to 4:00 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and the first and third Saturday of each month, from April through October, for a small admission fee. One must reserve however, by calling (845) 265-2000.

A little brochure I’ve saved on Stonecrop bears some quoting “At its windswept elevation of 1,100 feet in the Hudson Highlands, Stonecrop enjoys a Zone 5 climate.” The display gardens cover an area of twelve acres and include a diverse collection of gardens and plants; woodland and water gardens, raised alpine stone beds, a cliff rock garden, perennial beds, and an enclosed English-style flower garden.

There is a lovely pond, over which sits a wisteria pavilion, the likes of which I have never seen before. We didn’t see it in bloom, but I’m planning to go back when the wisteria is blooming next year, just to see this remarkable sight.

Spending half a day there is one of the most worthwhile things I can think of. You’ll get some exercise, see some interesting plantings, get garden ideas, and relieve your stress, and be inspired. We’re going back at the end of August to see what else we missed in the late spring.

Nearby is Manitoga, south on route 9 D from Cold Spring. This is the former estate of the famous Russel Wright, a designer of the 30’s 40’s and 50’s. (All the rage at the moment.) I used to have a Russel Wright Bun Warmer, made of spun aluminum, which has disappeared, sadly, because now I think it might be worth something. (If you were to see pictures of his tableware or pottery, you would recognizer the items from your mother’s house, no doubt.)

All that aside, Manitoga is even more unusual than Stonecrop, and is completely different, except that both are outdoor venues with lots of hills and magnificent trees. ; Many people come to Manitoga to walk beneath the giant fir trees, among the glacier driven rocks of this rugged (read: steep) hillside land. Wright found his little part of paradise here along the Hudson, and managed to shape it to his liking without showing his hand.

The raw natural beauty of this site amazed me. I stood at the edge of a giant rock face on one side of a deep rocky pool, on the other side of which nestled Wright’s contemporary house, seemingly part of the rock face on the other side. It was as if discovered by magic in the forest. The soothing sound of the waterfalls tempered the rugged look, making the sight even more unworldly.

“Manitoga” is the Algonquin name for Place of The Great Spirit. It is very easy to attune to the spirituality of the place, thanks to the subtle work of Russell Wright in bringing this property back to its more natural state. A century and one half of quarrying and logging had damaged it, when he purchased the land in 1942. Over the next 30 years, he used his great design talents to restore the land and to design a living theater, where everyone would experience an innate kinship with the land.

One year before his death, in 1975, Wright opened his land to the public. There are very specific paths that one can follow through this forestland. To quote the brochure: All paths begin at a subtle opening at the edge of Mary’s Meadow, named after Wright’s wife, who was also a designer. Wright designed his paths as a journey into the secrets of the forest. The trees provide an enclosed blanket of green and we are led by his unseen hand through its mysteries to make our own discoveries.

Wright’s house, Dragon Rock, is open for one tour daily, at 11:00 am, from April to October. The grounds and four miles of trails are open year round, daily, from 9 to 4. From April to October they are also open from 10 to 6 on Weekends. Have a look at the website, for more information, and for some photos of Wright’s designs and his marvelous house. This would be a very good year to see Manitoga, since it’s the 100th anniversary of Wright’s birthday. He left a wonderful legacy to the Hudson Valley.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *