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Pergola great hit 1


July 30, 2020

Situated on the western edge of the Great Lawn, with long curving walkways stretching north and south, Wave Hill‘s main Pergola gives focus not just to the flat open area of the lawn before it, but also to the views it frames of the Hudson River and Palisades. The fact that the walkways, not just the Pergola itself, are now fully accessible, thanks to a recent grant, makes it an especially attractive destination for visitors. This time of year, it’s a place of fragrances, views, cool breezes and sometimes a bossy mockingbird.

Gardens pergola Wave Hill 04 1

Although it has pride of place, it is not the only pergola at Wave Hill. The Aquatic Garden, another much loved feature of the gardens, especially at this time of year, is framed on three sides by long pergolas, providing excellent conditions for climbing—by gourds and other vines.

Pergolas at Aquatic Garden Ngoc Minh Ngo

The Pergola on the Great Lawn also boasts a vine, a hardy kiwi (Actinidia arguta) that produces lovely, kiwi-green blooms in late spring.

Kiwi close up IMG 2309

But what distinguishes the displays at the Pergola are the containers. “An essential element of all annual displays at Wave Hill,“ as author Thomas Christopher explains, “container plantings reinforce the in-ground plantings...visual focal points and punctuation marks that...create a powerful rhythm.” (Nature into Art: The Gardens of Wave Hill, Timber Press, 2019.) “Surely,” he goes on to write, “the greatest design challenge for any of Wave Hill’s annual plantings is that of the Pergola.” Learning to work with the view, not compete with it, is key. The composition shown off in this next shot captures the wonderful diversity of saturated colors, shapes and sizes that can be achieved in just one corner of the Pergola structure.

Pergola summer 2020 IMG 4337
Clockwise, starting from the the upper left, Croton codiaeum ‘Petra’, making a big salmon-colored splash; the fern Cyathea cooperi; the bright-green ornamental grass Hakonechloa macra ‘All Gold’; Kohleria ‘Brazil Gem’, in the African violet family; and, dominating the lower left of the photo, Colocasia affinis v. jenningsii, a dwarf taro or elephant’s ear. Tucked behind Croton codiaeum ‘Petra” are the dark leaves of Leea coccinea ‘Splendens’.

Now take a fresh look at the same composition from a different angle:

Pergola summer 2020 IMG 4341

Once you get over the excitement of seeing what can be achieved horticulturally with a small square at the edge of a green lawn, experience the true drama of its setting, perched above the Lower Lawn with a fine lookout to the Hudson River and Palisades:

Pergola summer 2020 IMG 4361

In addition to the container displays, the Pergola also has in-bed plantings. Grown from seed and new to the Pergola are more than a dozen that are just beginning to come into their own. Shown in the foreground of the next shot, for instance, is the marigold Tagetes ‘Cinnabar’.

Pergola summer 2020 IMG 4332

Also planted there are Alternanthera 'Purple Prince' and Alternanthera 'Red Thread', Cassia alata, Centaurea cineraria, Gomphocarpus fruticosus, Hibiscus coccineus, Ipomoea 'Sweetheart Red', Russelia equisetiformis, 'Coral Fountain' hanging baskets, Solanum pyracanthum, Solanum quitoense, Solanum wendlandii and Tinantia erecta.

While it may look indestructible, the Pergola’s Italianate structure did require some renovation in the 1990s. The stucco on the brick columns was replaced, and new cedar beams laid across the top.

Pergola renovation 1990s l75

Today, when Wave Hill reopens to the public after more than four months closed, as New York City battled the COVID-19 pandemic, the presence of the Pergola, elegant, lush, framing views—and dreams—will truly welcome us home to a place we hold close to our hearts no matter where we are or what the season.

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