House & Garden, Part 1

Suzanne called and said, “I talked to Cindy Sutherland and she’d love to have you come see her house and garden.  It’s very Mrs. Blandings.”  Any recommendation of Suzanne’s was bound to be a good one, but I felt so awkward, heavens, how would I go about asking someone if I could post pictures of their home on the internet.  

Sutherland placed the gate here because she likes the view it creates from the front of the house.  While a visitor did not see the point, she said, “The point is I like looking at it.”
No surprise, Cindy is lovely.  When I told her I feared it was such an imposition she assured me that it would be fun.  She loves to share it.

White crab apples and narcissus create a stunning early-spring display.  Cool and inviting, still, in July.
We all have houses that we drive by all the time and think, “Favorite.”  Imagine my surprise when I pulled up to see the house that was “very Mrs. Blandings” was on my short list.  Georgian Revival, but more fondly known as “Connecticut farmhouse” to me and Mr. Blandings in our conversational shorthand.  

The parterre outlined in gravel paths.  
The kind of house, regardless of size, that could never intimidate, but is forthright and candid in its ability to be gracious and hospitable.  “Come in.” it invites and Cindy does, too, then out we go to see the glorious garden.

Sutherland has the original plan for the house and this bit was added; originally a screened porch, she and her husband decided to open it up.  Usually working when she is outside (although she assures me it only takes a short time every day) this is a favorite spot during a rain shower.
Cindy tells me that gardening has been a recent passion.  She puttered with flowers all along, but once her children were older and the yard was no longer a playing field she began to lay it out in her mind then with her hands.

The small pond has been encircled to keep Rosie and Lily out of peril.
Tall and lovely, her eyes snap as she discusses the garden and how it came to be.  Twelve years ago she began laying out the allee and the parterre.  She believes a garden with structure satisfies everyday of the year; flowers cannot be trusted.

The plantings closer to the house are more formal and then as you move out it has a wilder, more prairie-like feel.  

Cindy has been careful to establish the views from inside the house so paths and beds are on an  axis with the windows.  
The beds within the wall have three bursts: spring bulbs, peonies and day lillies.  Sutherland avoids planning for late summer as it is usually hot and humid here.  You’re often better off inside.
Talking to a gardener like this is bringing a dawning of understanding about the planning.  I’m starting to “get it” and I can’t help but be drawn in by her enthusiasm.

A family of foxes has taken up residence in the neighborhood.  Here is Sutherland’s charming tribute.
We started outside then moved in to refresh.  The thing is, my path should have crossed with this woman’s a million times.  We know the same people, we go the same places.  There is a slight age difference, but still.  We traded views on houses and schools and children and all the things that come with and all the while I couldn’t help but think, “How could I have missed this engaging woman for all these years?”

Currently completely obsessed by the Mitford sisters, I asked her if she had read Hons and Rebels, a book recently given to me by another amazing woman, and she dashed to the library to pull out Slim Aarons book to show me the famous “Mitford eyes.”

The patio is mostly potted evergreens and some, only white, flowers.

So even this town, my home for over twenty years, keeps unfolding.  Stay-tuned tomorrow for the inside.  Treasures await.
(Oh, how Mr. Blandings loathes “to be continued…”

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29 thoughts on “House & Garden, Part 1

  1. I concur with Mr. Blandings! I can’t wait to see the interiors of this lovely place. It reminds me of Tracy Lord’s home in The Philadelphia Story.

  2. O, Mrs. B., wonderful post as always. Charming home and gardens. I am green with envy over the fox statue and Cindy’s proximity to a family of foxes. Terrific writing…..”she began to lay it out in her mind then with her hands”. Who wouldn’t swoon over a description like that? Can’t wait to see the inside tomorrow!

  3. Emma – we do catch glimpses of the foxes in town from time to time. It’s always a thrill to see that dash of red – especially when it’s kits.

  4. How wonderful that two incredible women have gotten to know each other.

    My mother said she was gardening the other day at her city flat when a fox walked right by her with no interest in her at all. (Luckily!)

  5. mad dash to the drawing board, that should be titled
    House & Heaven part I.
    Lucky you to be our guide at the pearly "gate!"

  6. i think you need to receive the city key for being the best marketing tool kansas city has.

    i know i refer to this often but when anyone wrinkles their nose and says, ‘really, you grew up in KANSAS CITY???’ i have to laugh knowing what a hidden treasure it is.

  7. Meg – I had one walk through our yard while I was gardening (rare) in the old house. The color is breathtaking.

  8. Megan – Christopher Filley keeps telling me to keep my trap shut – he DOESN’T want to share it. 🙂

  9. Anon – Cindy was telling me that when it was screened it was just a dusty catch-all. While Mr. B is pining for a screened-in porch, I think this is the reality of having one here. It’s so pretty now that it’s open, isn’t it?

  10. So beautiful; this makes me want to take up gardening! I’m anxiously awaiting the shots of the interiors…. 🙂

  11. The garden is so gorgeous and so is the porch/patio. It must be nice to have some tea or coffee there with some friends.

    Can’t wait to see the inside of the house.

  12. This reminds me so much of the homes here in New Orleans in The Garden District – it is so lovely. Looking forward to looking inside too!

  13. Love the Mitford reference. After Hons, there’s much more. Have recently read Decca (Jessica’s letters over six decades) and The Mitfords:Letters Between Six Sisters. Great post – love the Connecticut Farmhouse style. One senses that a lot of rich, deeply satisfying living takes place here.

  14. nell e – am reading Decca’s letters now – thanks for the other recommendations as I am the type to follow a vein until it is exhausted. One of my friends finds it mildly amusing that if I find an author I like I’m apt to begin with his/her first work and read in chronological order from there. Truly obsessed.

  15. Share your growing Mitford obsession – Decca will not disappoint. You’ll like Six Sisters very much. What a fascinating family. Have you read any of Nancy’s novels? They are delicious—fresh and interesting, they’ve met the test of time. Had good fortune to meet Jessica’s grandson recently,dynamic young Georgetown Law professor and charter school founder. Maybe a Devonshire post in the future? Reading about Jessica’s social justice-inspired life led me to Debo and Chatsworth…a little irony there? Debo’s books about Chatsworth are so interesting…Social issues, houses, family dynamics, literature…this family intersects with just about everything I find interesting! Also interested in your chronological reading habit – have only pursued that with novels of a series, but it’s a really interesting way to approach a writer one is “investing” in by reading a number of his/her works. Now I must return to viewing the rooms of the wonderful house that started this whole stream! Thanks so much…this reveals what I love about your blog: a discerning eye for great style and a rich mind and heart for substance. Thanks!

  16. “Flowers cannot be trusted”.
    How true. If only I had that concise phrase when having to explain the decision to ruthlessly pull up an endlessly long herbaceous border, and re-plant the whole thing with Boxwood that will look good all the year round.
    Regarding your Mitford phase: have you read “Nancy Mitfird: A Talent to Annoy”? Essays, aritcles and reviews edited by Charlotte Mosley. Nancy was a charming novelist, but her real strength was journalism.
    Her biography by Selina Hastings is first rate, by the way.

  17. Toby – I gently floated the idea of replacing the (recently planted) lirope border with boxwood and did not receive a warm response. The year-roundness holds so much appeal. I love boxwood in the snow.

    I am writing down the Mitford recommendations. I’m reading Decca’s letters now and even though it’s her voice I’m getting a taste of the other sisters’ perspective. Nancy is next, both fiction and non. Thanks for the recommendation.

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