One of the most talented gardeners I know is Rich Kiamco, an actor and comedian who shares both a house in Jersey City (with city garden) and a county house in the Catskills (with farm) with environmental/graphic designer David Gibson. Rich writes:
“The city house is a 1911 wood frame colonial revival on a 150 x 37′ plot. It’s the Victorian city planners’ version of a McMansion. In those days, they built houses ten feet apart with little strips of land between, and front and back lawns, which were retrofitted with driveways and rear garages after cars were invented. We tore out our front lawn and put in all flowers. It looks kinda like an Anna Nicole Smith blouse, busting out with floral excess. We still haven’t decided what color to paint the house. Two “designers” + historic house (w/bad paint job) = drama. Mediator, please!
“From what we’ve been able to find out from the deeds to the land, the country house in Ferndale was built in the early 1800s. The original, rear, section of the house is from the 1820s, connected to the more ornate 1840s Greek Revival front—grand in scale with pilasters and a ceiling medallion—via a crumbling little room with a quaint little two-by-three-foot door. David thinks of the funny door and crumbling room as manservants’ quarters. I think of the movie “Being John Malkovic,” with its 11½th floor, but with architectural salvage bits and stuff strewn about.
“The garden itself started off as a weedy, abandoned kitchen garden where I thought we’d grow a few flowers for fun. On our first trip to the nursery, while I was agonizing between packets of zinnia and morning glory seeds, David was pushing a cart loaded with three-gallon perennials to the car… hmmm. After we finished planting a 6 x 6′ plot, I gazed at the rest of our 25 acres—a huge, empty field riddled with grasses, brush, ancient 7-foot blueberry bushes, and overgrown apple and pear trees—and the obsession began. What’s a summer potluck party without a massive garden, anyway?
“Four years later, we’ve got an 175 x 70′ fenced plot and an experimental 25 x 200′ unfenced testing site in which the deer nibble on just about everything except the 600-pound stone Buddha. Thus, we named our farm Buddha Barn. We grow flowers, veggies, fruit, and berries. My faves are the rare Ramapo tomato, PMR (powdery-mildew-resistant) acorn squash, and this year’s excitement, piñata squash (Honeyboat Piñata F1 Hybrid), which is green-and-yellow striped and tastes like a sweet potato, with edible skin. David has his berry-patch agenda, and is constantly making amazing meals and fattening desserts like raspberry pandowdy.”