Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Madoo Conservancy

  I don't recall when I first read about Madoo, but I would guess it was a magazine article or perhaps a review of 'Notes From Madoo' , Robert Dashes' book published in 2000. How I wanted to visit , but at that time in my life it seemed quite impossible. But opportunities sometimes present themselves and this summer my friends and I stepped through the portal into a garden I  thought I would never see.
  Visiting dozens of gardens every year puts you in a position of  discernment. It's easy to be disappointed when the garden toured  lands under the ever-rising bar. The more gardens , the higher the bar climbs. As grateful as I am for the existence of the venerable Garden Conservancy, there are invariably  duds on Open Days .Sometimes the garden is just not to my taste, sometimes it's just not that great--and how subjective our vision of gardens is! These gardens all belong to someone,  someone loves them, cares for them or hires someone to do so . As the reports from 2013 Garden Bloggers Fling appeared, my favorite garden may have been someone elses least favorite. We stroll, we raise an eyebrow, we swoon with envy or sneer discretely with disdain and the gardens sink or swim. Madoo sank. But why ? Some of us assumed that the conservancy had some serious funding issues ..though you would think almost any concern in the Hamptons would be showered with cash, especially when it involves an artist and a garden that is considered iconic .So sure was I of the resource issue , when I arrived back  home from New York I began to research the garden, assuming I'd find info about needed restoration, angst-imbued  fund raising requests, calls to rally the troops to Save Madoo ! etc. In fact there was nothing of the sort, only the usual solicitations for membership you would be accustomed to seeing for any public garden in the nation. On the conservancys website  there are announced events, weddings, classes, with no hint of  desperation.
  In my quest for information this is what I discovered: Mr Dash is still in residence, an octogenarian , but still it is his garden.I looked at images of his paintings. I found a You-Tube video featuring in interview with P. Allen Smith (ed. note : Do you call him P ? Or Allen ? And does his hair ever get messed up ?)  in which Smith was appropriately reverential , and Mr Dash may or may not have known exactly who he was. Both Dash and Madoo are revered as an important presence in the community. On the website I found links to several delightfully Perenyi-esque columns in the local newspaper written by Dash,  every one of which I loved.   It seems that the general population of the Hamptons do not feel that Madoo is in decline. So is it me ? Did I just not 'get it ' ? I have no problem with art in the garden (preferably good art) or the garden AS art. I have no problem with interesting pruning or sculpting of shrubs if done well-and here though the forms were unique it looked like the local mow and blow guy from the corporate park has been in with his scalping tools.There were weeds, fading paint (though the most famous views were well maintained) creaky infrastructure. There were many things that were clever, many things that were disheveled. The latter could describe  great swathes of my own garden(though I don't charge 10 bucks for you to come over) and so who am I to dismiss Madoo ? In the words of the King of Siam ..tis a puzzlement.


 This was my favorite device..the archy conifer , the blue gate.




We've all seen this ; near the entrance the paint was fresh.




This was another favorite area, but one that I think you need to walk into to fully appreciate: the trees and boxwood interrupt the path ..perhaps the goal was to make the visitor stop, slow down.





This made me think of Heronswood..forest temple vibe.
 


I liked the irregularity of the pruning here, but the skeleton was in plain view. Shrub revival needed.


This Hornbeam (?) arch was fabulous...



 ....this weedy and sparse garlic patch was not.









Madoo badges.





I've reconsidered the imperfections here..If I tried to do a rill it would probably look like this. These borders are likely very colorful now, a couple weeks plus after this image was taken.


16 comments:

  1. yes very eclectic......to say the least...well art is supposed to make us think and well artists are not necessarily gardeners ..it looks like an evolved living mixed media project of sorts...6 bucks tops

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    1. Indeed Sharon, and in this case art did make me think, long after I came out of that garden. If that is Dashs'goal, he succeeded..

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  2. You did a great job with this Kathy, I only took a very few pictures here then gave up. Your shots show the good bones of this garden.
    I couldn't seem to see past the neglect.

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    1. There were good bones Deanne, but tired bones.. garden osteoporosis !

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  3. You are kind in your assessment. It was a garden definitely in decline. I did not take a single picture.

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    1. It took me days and days to write this post Sue. I felt badly about the condition of the garden, and then the specter of geezer-hood reared it's ugly head.

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  4. Having never been to Madoo, I probably shouldn't comment. However, what I am seeing an perhaps is the underlying cause for a non-wow from Madoo, is the complete lack of any annuals and container plantings. Among a certain set of gardeners, these are what "make" a garden. I think they do keep a mature garden up to date, but they are in no way required. I see lots of nice design, but very unchanging and stable design. There is also no emphasis on any blooming plants, which is always difficult in a perennial plant garden. Those at Madoo seem to have attempted to deal with this with the bright pops of color on paintable structures. Also if you haven't added any of the new perennial cultivars available in the last 25 years to a garden, it is going to look dated. That list is huge and a bit trendy in itself.

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    1. Good observations Rachelle, and this garden would look ridiculous with container combos, succulents, tropicals, annuals etc.--in that regard it does preserve the integrity of it's geography. Mr Dash is probably not interested in what tastemakers are involved in-this is his garden and his art.

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  5. You show some interesting elements of this garden but both the Smith video and your images make this garden seem less than a gem and the comments of your fellow Idyllers confirm that. The rill looks like what I'd probably end up with too but If I wanted something with straight lines, I'd have someone else do it. Ignorance is bliss and since I'd never heard of this place before nor did I shell out ten bucks to see it, I'm not disappointed.

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    1. My rill would look worse than your rill !

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    2. Would not! Yours would be thrilling!

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    3. A Thrilling Ril. A Rilling Thrill? As said by Mrs. Beanstalk, " A slotted spoon doesn't hold much soup." Sadly, my garden is a slotted spoon !

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  6. This is a wonderful post, Kathy, that bravely raises lots of garden-touring undercurrents. We all appreciate the work that goes into garden making, but I do wonder as I age will the critical faculties stay keen or will I look at my garden in a fond nostalgic haze and overlook wobbly, unkempt stuff. (Heck, I do that now! ;)

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    1. unkempt stuff... how right you are ! On the other hand, I had unkempt stuff when I was still in my 30's so I guess I can't use pending infirmity as an excuse.We plant collectors are doomed to a certain amount of untidiness.

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  7. I've never heard of Madoo so I don't experience the disappointment of comparing expectations to the reality of the garden; however, based on your pictures alone, my sentiment is that the garden is nice but unexciting. There's nothing that sets me thinking "How could I translate that idea?" My guess is the the gardener and the local community have become complacent - they're used to the way it is and don't think about how it might evolve. Although, assuming I reach the age of 80+, maybe I won't have the energy to re-think my space either...Thanks for sharing your tour in any case.

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  8. I enjoyed this garden when we visited. I assumed that it was an older place - I knew nothing about Madoo. I felt like I'd just wandered into a secret garden.

    It was not a photographer's dream garden, though.

    I do have to say that I did not like the ginkgos planted in the pathway. It made me stop and think. It made me think, "I don't like this."

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