As Spring is slowly unfolding in the Litchfield Hills, it’s nice to think about getting out into the garden. Edith Chase enjoyed her garden at Topsmead. It was located north of the cabin (and later the house we see today) near East Litchfield Road. When on that road you may have noticed an old driveway and small barn that are still visible. The ladies always called that part of the property, “Underhill” presumably because it was downhill from the house. A small house was built there in 1926 which served as a guest house.
George Wilson, Miss Chase’s chauffer was the first person to care for the garden. In addition to his driving duties, he was a general handy man, and his wife was the family’s cook. George is pictured here with a cultivator that he used in the large garden. It measured approximately 75 feet by 150 feet and was designed to have four quadrants arranged around a large central grape arbor. White champagne grapes grew on this and four benches underneath gave people a lovely place to sit and enjoy the garden. Turf grass walking paths bisected the garden, framing the different quadrants. The north edge of the garden was planted with flowers so that it always looked pretty. The garden produced every vegetable imaginable: asparagus, beans, lettuce, peas, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, and sweet corn. There were fruit trees also. A small orchard of apple trees grew along the perimeter of the area parallel to the road. Additionally, there were 3 peach trees near the guest house. Purple grapes grew on trellises along the sides of the garden.
Often when the ladies went to the cabin for the day, they’d simply lunch on vegetables that were in season at the time. Just like many of us hope to do in the coming months. Happy Spring!
These conversations were conducted between Bob Orintas and Jenny Riggs.