Topsmead is truly no longer waiting for summer. Summer has arrived on the property...even though summer solstice is not quite here yet. The hay fields have leapt up from their brown winter stubble and are now three-feet high, gently waving carpets of green. Walking along the path mowed through and along the perimeter of the fields, I have arrived at a place of celebration and escape.
I never cease to be amazed by the regenerative powers of Mother Nature, and Topsmead’s cottage gardens and the pollinator garden are once again validating my amazement: the absolutely barren winter dirt is now buried in bursts of color and a variety of shapes—purples, pinks, yellows, oranges, fringy greens, streamlined fronds. I look forward to the luxury of spending soft days in June en plein air with my sketchbook trying to capture the expansiveness of Topsmead’s vistas as well as the intimacy of its gardens.
While we are on the subject of the gardens, do go on a walkabout to the pollinator garden and see how happily it is attracting pollinator critters. These critters, including birds, bats, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps, small mammals, and most importantly, bees are responsible for assisting over 80% of the world’s plants to reproduce. Without them, humans and wildlife wouldn’t have much to eat or look at! So in their honor, set a spell on the garden’s stone bench sometime during the week of June 22-28 and help celebrate National Pollinator Week.
And speaking of special places at Topsmead, the other day, as I was walking around the cottage with a friend, she shared memories of coming to Topsmead with her daughter. One of her daughter’s favorite places to explore was underneath amongst the sheltering boughs of the juniper bushes next to the side garden of the cottage. She would imagine that she was in her own private earthy, shady, if a bit spikey, world. Under the junipers was magical, indeed.
Topsmead does that to you—invokes magic. When I first toured the cottage with docent Gerri Geci in his DEEP Ranger khaki shorts and shirt (I won’t say how many years ago), I felt the magic of the cottage. It was so easy to relax and imagine myself to be Miss Edith Morton Chase escaping the city of Waterbury to spend her spring-summer-fall seasons at the top of the meadow, reading a book in a sunny corner of the living room, potting plants on the metal drain board of the kitchen, consulting on the farm operations, or savoring sunset with a signature Topsmead cocktail on the west-facing porch.
For me, the gift of Topsmead during these seasons is the opportunity to transport myself, however briefly, out of my personal life, away from today’s current problems and challenges, and into the magical world of Miss Edith. Even though there won’t be any cottage tours this year because of coronavirus restrictions, each time I visit Topsmead, I quietly thank Miss Edith for leaving her estate so generously to the people of the state Connecticut and for requesting in her will that the grounds “be kept in a state of natural beauty.”
Please feel free to share one of your Topsmead memories or magical places in the comment section below.
After May’s frivolous first half, with its volatile temperature swings, frosty nights, and snow squalls interspersed with warm sunny day daffodil days, I am still waiting for the weather goddess to decide to do the right thing. One mid-May, windy, crisp blue sky morning, Gloria, my poodle, and I zip-a-dee-doo-dah-ed over to Topsmead nice and early in order to avoid the crowds that increasingly necessitate the closure of the park these days, crowds looking for ways to get out and about during the coronavirus “stay home stay safe” guidelines.
Driving up the driveway, I heard the rumblings of a bright yellow Bobcat—no, not that kind of bobcat—working to clear away winter’s tree debris. Two masked men—no, not that kind—in green DEEP shirts were raking up smaller debris. I waved cheerily from a distance and yelled a thank-you for the good job they were doing. A bit farther up the drive, I met and introduced Gloria and myself to Cindy McPhee, a former pre-school teacher and docent for Miss Edith’s cottage and who will be working in the Topsmead gardens.
Walking up to Edith’s cottage from the parking area, I noticed that the crabapple trees lining the way were thick with darkly pink but tightly closed buds. Next to the dovecote, lilac trees were still holding on tightly to their unfurled buds, but one whitely blossoming bush bravely offered its heady fragrance to me as I walked by. Around the corner, the enclosed garden’s lion fountain and the cottage’s back porch remained shuttered. In the gardens, I noticed tips of well-tended plants peeking up through the well-groomed dirt but not yet willing to let their buds emerge. Reddish peony stems reached skyward, not yet ready to bloom. It felt as if Topsmead was ready to burst enthusiastically into the summer season, but was still waiting....
...Still waiting as the rest of us are—waiting for the sunlight at the end of this Covid-19 tunnel. Perhaps unlike some of us, though, the natural world is being patient, waiting for just the right conditions for the lilacs and the crabapple trees and the peonies to bloom. No doubt, we humans will have to wait much longer for our just-right conditions than the natural world will. Let’s hope we can do so safely....