On an estate in Connecticut, James Doyle has created a wondrous pleasure garden replete with alluring horticultural delights — herbaceous borders, rose garden, folly, maze, chess set, orchard, parterre, topiaries, water features — and all set about with tropical plant specimens in summer. While pleasure gardens are traditionally public amusement park affairs, this enchanting setting is private and brings joy and happiness to all involved, from owners to caretakers and, immeasurably, to Doyle, the landscape designer who conceived it and attends its evolution. “Old Mill Farm is one of the last great estates in Greenwich, a 1926 landmark treasure,” he notes. “My clients and I have tried to create a balance between architecture and horticulture.” They have succeeded spectacularly.
At an early age, Doyle was inspired by the work of Russell Page and David Hicks, two British-born designers to the international elite.
Old Mill Farm proved a challenge and an opportunity. “The gardens as seen today did not exist. The grounds were in a state of neglect and disrepair.
We went through historical records and the house plans were found at Cornell University, but no garden plans. So essentially we had a blank slate to work with. We restored original hardscaping and established a long-term plan to create a traditional landscape, English in style.”
Formal and intimate garden rooms are set close to the house with orchard, folly, swimming pool, kitchen garden and pond farther afield, often part of a vista.
Greenhouses were designed and built to supply interesting annuals, perennials and biennials such as Delphinium ‘Pacific Giant,’ Digitalis purpurea ‘Alba’ and Lupinus ‘Russell Hybrid.’ In winter, they also shelter the tropicals that adorn the garden in summer — a direct influence of Doyle’s early Irish garden experience.
“This was a dream project with the perfect client and a collaborative effort from the beginning. We want the gardens to stand the test of time, as the house has. This is a garden of constant surprise. The contrasting areas ensure that the pace of the garden is varied and that these spaces set off the fine proportions of the house. This is truly a private paradise.”