The VERANDA Book Club
Transport yourself and follow along on Instagram @verandamag, as we delve into a new release each month.
LANDSCAPE DESIGN BY
Dand end late for Robb Nestor and Bill Reynolds. “In the summer, we’re notorious for walking out to the garden at 4:30 a.m. with a cup of coffee, then within moments the coffee gets put aside and we’re lost in weeding or trimming or whatever needs doing,” Nestor says. With 3 acres of cultivated gardens on their 11-acre property in
Hadlyme, Connecticut, that “whatever” can stretch endlessly. “It’s a dawn-todusk obsession,” adds Reynolds, the resident hedge-trimmer-in-chief (who also designed the outbuildings). For him, a day that begins before sunrise and ends at 10 p.m. strolling the garden with a glass of wine, surveying the day’s toil, “is pure bliss. A perfect day.”
It’s the kind of day, and kind of garden, the two former Atlanta residents aspired to when they started looking for a country house in Nestor’s native New England. He grew up in Middletown, where his father worked for Aetna Insurance, and used to take young Robb to visit the corporate greenhouses. “That was the catalyst for my plant passion,” says Nestor, who earned his horticulture degree from the University of Connecticut. After moving south in the early 1980s to eventually open a landscaping company in Atlanta, he met Reynolds, a Georgia native whose grandparents were accomplished gardeners. “Atlanta was very good to us, but for retirement, this area checked all the boxes—a small town, mom-and-pop stores, rural countryside, great old houses, and good gardening,” Reynolds says.
For two years, they searched for the right spot. Then, within three hours of seeing this circa-1732 farmhouse overlooking Whalebone Cove, just a short walk from the oldest ferry landing in Connecticut, they signed a contract.
“We loved that the property was so pure, just an old farmhouse and a field,” says Nestor. The two also loved that it was “a tabula rasa” with no preexisting garden. They kept the front natural and simple, adding heirloom apple and pear trees to what had been a small orchard, and transformed the back into a warren of delight. “You’d never know this is back here. It unfolds in a series of surprises as you walk from room to room,” says Reynolds.
And that’s exactly how their vision for the garden unfolded: no master plan, just an organic blossoming, if you will, and lots of dirt under the fingernails.
The two began mulling ideas that very first day while exploring the property’s meadows, pond, and creek at the foot of the hill. They imagined a fountain in a flattened out area and sketched a little garden house in the corner, and things slowly evolved. “We’d get an idea, start implementing where it might work, and things grew from there,” says Reynolds. He favors the potager, where he harvests cabbages, fennel, and leeks amid elegant boxwood geometry. “Given the simplicity