The Secrets Of The Wave Hill Public Garden

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‘Nature into Art’ explores one of New York City’s hidden (garden) gems.

By Barbara Pinckney

Thomas Christopher was a student at the School of Professional Horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden when he first discovered Wave Hill in the Bronx. Once a private estate that hosted the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and Mark Twain, it had since been turned into a heavenly public garden. He recalls his amazement the first time he walked through its gate, hidden in a crowded residential neighborhood, and found himself in the middle of 28 acres of lush gardens with sweeping views of the Hudson River on one side and the striking Palisades on the other “It is really like you are merged into another world.”
In the ensuing years, Christopher visited Wave Hill many times; it was often his first stop when hosting wide-eyed newcomers to the city. It also became a source of inspiration for his own work. Not only was it beautiful, but it was also daring and innovative, a labor of love that revolutionized American gardening and continues to break new ground more than 50 years after its opening in 1967.
This is why Timber Press chose Christopher—who eventually developed a bad back and was making his living writing about gardens instead of growing them—to pen the definitive book about historical estates and botanical gardens. “They wanted someone who knew the garden and would write not just an appreciation of it, but also what you could learn from it,” he said. “I wanted to say what was relevant about Wave Hill.”
Enter Nature into Art: The Gardens of Wave Hill, the result of Christopher and photographer Ngoc Minh Ngo spending 18 months with the gardeners of Wave Hill, learning their secrets as the property moved through the seasons. (Because Wave Hill is a public garden, it was planned to be appealing and interesting year round.) The book is at once instructional and inspirational, putting the ethereal beauty of Wave Hill within reach of the average gardener while preserving the sense of wonder that comes from a visit.

To learn more about Christopher, listen to his podcast, Growing Greener, or visit thomaschristophergardens.com.

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