Great gardens teach as much as they delight. And Wave Hill has many lessons to impart -- particularly about color. Located in the leafy Riverdale section of the Bronx, the 28-acre destination is a plant lover’s paradise with sweeping views of the Hudson River. Luminaries such as Theodore Roosevelt and Samuel Clemens -- you may know him as Mark Twain -- rented the estate before financier George Perkins purchased it in 1903. (He lived and gardened there for decades and was instrumental in preserving the Palisades parkland, which the garden overlooks.) The family eventually donated Wave Hill to New York City, which opened its gates to the public in 1965.
Surrounded by a rustic cedar fence, the flower garden is a masterful study in color. It is one of the first spaces visitors encounter, and an enduring favorite. Created in the early 1980s by its renowned director of horticulture, Marco Polo Stufano, and curator John Nally, the garden is divided into 14 formal beds, separated by broad stone paths and filled with perennials, annuals, and old garden roses (some originally planted by the Perkins family), as well as tender perennials and exotics that change every year.
“Gardens are always evolving,” notes Canning. While it is important to have an overarching color scheme to help unify the look of your garden, a little experimentation is always good. “Don’t be too strict,” he advises. “Be playful; you should have fun.”