Patrick Chassé, the award-winning landscape architect who designed the White Garden in Lewisboro, N.Y., likes his gardens to have a historical context. So when a homeowner asked him to design a garden for a new Greek Revival-style home set on 45 acres, his first concern was to make sure the house incorporated features that would recall ancient Greece.
The home itself is, in Chassé’s words “Greece meets New England Barn.” The siding is weathered grey clapboard while the style is a play on a Greek temple. Each aspect of the house looks onto a different garden, each whimsical and endlessly fascinating as the seasons change.
Approaching the house along an unpaved driveway, one can glimpse the building through trees and across ponds. Several large, moss-covered stones lead the visitor through a narrow gap in an evergreen hedge and into a round, paved courtyard. “It’s a theater,” says Chassé. “The visitor is the player.” And the audience is a collection of old busts set in a circle around the courtyard, peeking out from among rhododendron bushes. Having bowed to the busts, the visitor reaches the front door.
“Greek temples were always in forests,” Chassé says, explaining that the large trees surrounding the house have been re-interpreted as a grove. The trees closest to the home’s foundation receive heavy root pruning to prevent damage during construction.
Water is a prominent feature. A large pond with an island topped by a temple to Apollo dots the bottom of rolling lawns, and a pool with a pergola looks out into the forest. The stones of the patio are “grouted” with moss. Below the pool area, Chassé has created a koi pond filled with bio-filtered water. “There are no chemicals in the water,” says Eric Schmidt, the head gardener. “The water is filtered by bacteria.”
Rock steps across the koi pond lead to a nymphaeum, a rocky grotto, which in ancient Greece would have been consecrated to water nymphs, though the only nymphs you’re likely to spot here would be swimmers diving down to look through the round window into the grotto.