Jane Garmey and John M. Hall’s recently published book, Private Gardens of the Hudson Valley (The Monacelli Press, $65), takes readers on an exclusive tour of 26 privately owned sites in Putnam, Dutchess, and Columbia counties. Punctuated by Hall’s inviting photos, Garmey’s text includes conversations with the property owners, as well as detailed descriptions of each of these one-of-a-kind garden landscapes.
Arguably the most unusual entry in the book, this garden is located in Garrison. It is remarkable not for its trees, flowers, or shrubs — although Garmey does mention that it includes 24 varieties of flowering thyme in one area — but for the numerous stone structures scattered around the property. Pyraminds, pavilions, stone walls, obelisks, fountains, even a grotto — these edifices are the work of the late Paul Mayén, a former owner of the premises, who began building this idiosyncratic garden in 1989. “Not much is known about it,” Garmey says, “but it is not a horticulturalist’s garden.” She notes that Mayén was a “genuine eccentric” who (according to the current owner) apparently kept no records or notes about the garden’s layout or its architectural follies.
In her book, Garmey explains that the garden is “an elaborate network of amazing shapes, walkways, and structures” which she found “massively strange and charming” when she visited it firsthand. “All gardens make use of stone in some way,” she continues. “But here is a wonderfully imaginative use of it.” Mayén built most of these structures himself, using stone found in the Valley. The current owner envisions himself as a caretaker of the space, and (Garmey writes) “is fascinated by the garden’s combination of wildness and formality and its heady mix of cultural influences. ‘One part Tuscan, one part Los Angeles, and one part French or Spanish’ is how he describes it.”