Home Ground

How do Westchester’s horticultural hard-hitters tackle their own yards? Eavesdrop over their garden fences.



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So, spring has sprung and you’re thinking of making the leap to a more enthralling backyard. What with the economy tottering, you figure that the home turf may be seeing a lot more of you this year. Might as well invest in the scene and create a space that you won’t want to leave.

The best way to choose a garden designer might be to follow him or her home. After all, at home, garden designers have free reign and can strut their stuff without inhibitions. Most garden designers experiment in their personal domains and use them as laboratories to test plants that are new to the market. They use them as extensions of their businesses, but they also stretch their limits. They live and they learn. We took a peek at the home front of four of Westchester’s well-known garden designers and came away with ideas that might help, whether you go the professional route or do it yourself.

Informal, yet structured
Annie McGinnis Sleepy Hollow

Q: Tell us a bit about your background.
A: I have an MBA from Harvard and started my career at IBM. I managed a large home-textiles business and then ran a high-end tabletop and jewelry firm. At midlife, I changed course and veered straight for landscape design.
Q: Describe your property.
A: A half-acre lot with a 1950s ranch house overlooking the river.
Q: What were your influences?
A: At the New York Botanical Garden, I met people who influenced my style, especially my friend Jan Axel of Delphinium Design. I learn something from everyone and every garden I meet.
Q: What do people want?
A: Everyone wants easy care, which is an oxymoron.
Q: What’s the ambience of your garden?
A: It’s experimental in the front—a hospital for orphaned plants from my jobs. In the back, I strive for tranquility and a sense of woodland.
Q: What’s your favorite tool?
A: My Papermate pen—everything starts with that.
Q: Do you have any money-saving advice?
A: I bring in container plants to propagate my own and get clippings from friends. It’s easy.