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Gardens of Trade Secrets


The physical beauty of the Northwest Connecticut has always attracted vacationers and second home- owners, even during the early years when the region was still an industrial powerhouse. With the fading of the iron industry and its equally destructive charcoal business, the hills again became verdant and attracted ever more newcomers with ever-more sophisticated tastes.

The area has literally bloomed under the direction of these new arrivals and many properties have been endowed with distinguished gardens that provide an elegant backdrop to the region. Visitors to Trade Secrets 2018, the annual gardening extravaganza held in Sharon be benefit Women’s Support Services, will have a chance to view three of these properties up close and personal May 20th from 10AM to 4PM. Tickets for the tour are $75 and are limited in number. They must be purchased in advance by calling 860-364-1080 or going to

A perennial favorite among the gardens has been created by Bunny Williams and John Rosselli and spreads over 12 acres of their estate. A relaxed path through an orchard filled will apple, cherry and pear trees leads to the couple’s pool and pool house—a Greek Revival folly made of locally harvested rustic oak columns.

A path behind the pool house takes visitors to William's newest addition, her contemporary studio which sits on the highest spot in the garden and offers an impressive view of the village and Berkshire Hills. After visiting the studio, visitors can work their way into the Woodland Garden, where paths lead through carpets of ferns, Tiarella, Epimediums, Primula and woodland peonies.

Upon exiting the Woodland Garden, enter Elizabeth’s Circle where large boxwood balls tumble down the hill from the wood’s edge, a contemplative and calming space before moving onto the more formal areas of the garden. A parterre garden lies behind William’s and Roselli’s conservatory and guest barn and mossy brick walkways lead through perfectly trimmed boxwood hedges that edge seasonally planted beds.

A pergola leads visitors around to the classic 1840s Federal home and a series of dramatic Belgian-style swooped Taxus hedges that frame a mass planting of Hydrangea paniculata A patterned path of sunken Belgium block leads across the lawn to a hidden gravel path that ends in the recently redesigned Sunken Garden. It is filled with bold mixed borders and box-edged beds brimming with perennials, annuals and bulbs that frame a granite-edged rectangular fish pool.

Past the guest barn lies the vegetable and cutting garden. Lettuces, mustard greens, tulips and peonies in the spring give way to tomatoes, squash, potatoes, dahlias and an array of other cutting flowers in the summer. The last stop brings the visitor to a flock of lively chickens who have the good fortune of residing in an extraordinary octagonal coop.

In addition to the Williams/Rosselli garden, visitors can tour the Garden at Middlefield where architect Gil Schafer and long-time friend and landscape designer Deborah Nevins have explored both traditional and contemporary designs on a six-acre tract around his home. Schafer and Nevins wanted to create a sense of place for this new farmhouse in an otherwise undefined stretch of land. Using hedges, retaining walls made of old Pennsylvania fieldstone, large trees brought into the site, a gravel courtyard and small panels of tailored lawns, the two sought to make garden rooms that would establish a “precinct” around the house.

The design of the garden’s hedges also allowed them to subtly explore a more contemporary vocabulary, bringing to the garden an abstract sculptural linearity that interacts with the rolling landscape of the fields around the house in interesting and unexpected ways.

The final garden on the tour is found at the Wethersfield estate. Described as “the finest classical garden in the United States built in the second half of the twentieth century,” it grew out of the inspiration of Bryan Lynch, Evelyn Poehler and Chauncey Stillman.

The garden was started in the 1940s on the north side of the house when landscape architect Lynch (1907-1986), and Stillman created the Inner Garden which differs in style from the rest of the garden in its 19th Century English origins. The remainder of the Formal Garden and Wilderness Garden were created over a 25-year period, beginning in 1947, when Stillman hired Poehler (1914-1999), another landscape architect. This collaboration resulted in a formal garden, classical in style.

The garden tours occur on Sunday, the second day of the Trade Secrets event. Saturday, May 19th, brings the Rare Plant and Garden Antiques Sale held at Lion Rock Farm, Route 41 and Hosier Road in Sharon. Up to 60 vendors will bring their rare and unusual plants and garden antiques for eager purchasers to take home with them. The sale starts at 8AM and ends at 3PM.

Early buying is available from 8-10AM for an admission price of $125 (breakfast included). Regular admission, 10 AM-noon, is $50 and Late Bloomers are admitted after 1 PM for $25. Late Bloomer tickets are sold only on the day of the event.

E-tickets can be secured by going to Tickets for the tours and Trade Secrets are sold separately and those wishing to buy for both events should choose one event, add the ticket quantity to the cart, and then choose “return to list” to click on the other event listing. When buying tour tickets, it will appear as a purchase for just the Williams/Rosselli property but, once the purchase is confirmed, the other tickets will print automatically. When the e-ticket is confirmed, a link will provide maps to the properties.

For further information, call 860-364-1080 Monday through Friday from 9AM to 4PM, or email