John Jay's Green Thumb
Strolling the Homestead's Gardens
Strolling around the bucolic gardens of the John Jay Homestead is like stepping into a Hudson River School painting. “You get this whole 19th-century landscape sensibility of what it must have felt like driving up by horse and carriage between the beech trees and having the house appear on the left,” says Friends of John Jay Homestead president Wendy Ross. “I’ve always thought of this setting as the pride of Bedford.”
The glory of the grounds and gardens where the public is free to roam is in no small part thanks to the local garden clubs who have created and tend to them. This June, a cocktail party was held in the Fountain Garden honoring the Bedford Garden Club, the Hopp Ground Garden Club, the Rusticus Garden Club, and the New York Unit of the National Herb Society for their work in the Homestead’s various gardens. “There are 62 acres to enjoy here,” says Ross. “People come for contemplation, to walk their dogs, have picnics, ride their horses.” For the equestrian set the place is ideal, with immediate access to the Bedford Riding Lanes and with an elegant setting for pre- and post-event soirées.
Farmers of the future will be interested in the Intergenerate Teaching Garden, where you will learn to grow your own vegetables. Just 40 years ago, the Homestead was a working farm, and in that spirit, the Intergenerate program is bringing new generations back to the culture of agriculture. Students may also take classes in food preservation, freezing, canning, pickling and drying. Hello, Martha Stewart, who by the way lives across the street.
“The Beech Allée is my favorite spot,” says Ross. Allan Weinreb, the site’s program director, says the gardens are beautiful all year round, but especially in spring when the lilacs are in bloom. “The grounds explode in shades of white, lavender, and green,” he said. “That’s especially beautiful.”