Tree Warden, Garden Club at Odds Over Waveny Landscaping Plan

The state official tasked with maintaining New Canaan’s public trees is at odds with a local volunteer group seeking to remove several Japanese maples from a sidewalk near Waveny House.

The walkway between the pavilion and the fountain in Waveny. Photo credit: Michael Dinan

The city’s tree keeper finds the maple trees planted on one side of the path between the pavilion and the fountain at the top of the toboggan hill “absolutely beautiful,” said Public Works Director Tiger Mann during the Parks & Recreation session Commission on June 9th.

Regarding a suggestion from the New Canaan Garden Club to replace these trees with a long bed of peonies and flowering plants, Mann added, “He understands your desire to have this, but he feels good about the other 20,000 residents in the country too City and he currently sees no valid reason why they should be removed. “

Comments followed a presentation by representatives from the Garden Club and the Waveny Park Conservancy, as well as their landscape architect. Removing the Japanese maples would open up a nice view of the hill and pond below, would create more symmetry with the peonies already on the west side of the walkway, and would be a better photo opportunity for couples getting married in Waveny, according to Caroline Garriety and Kathryn, according to the Conservancy Chair Herman from Kathryn Herman Design, LLC of New Canaan.

“It would be very impressive to have this incredibly long walk combined with this really beautiful exhibition on both sides of the walk,” said Herman during the meeting, which was held via videoconference. “We think this would be a very successful design.”

However, some members of the commission raised concerns about the removal of the maple trees (see below), and tree guard Bob Horan is definitely “not for” the Garden Club’s plan, Mann said.

“He has the last word,” said Mann. The public works manager added that he had forwarded the Garden Club plan to Horan himself and that no one else had consulted the tree keeper before asking the commission for assistance in removing the maples.

Garrity, past president and current member of the Garden Club, said, “It would be great if we could meet him [Horan] over there and maybe go through with him. “

Mann replied: “It might have been nicer to send him the plan directly, but yes, you can certainly meet him.”

As the Garden Club member in charge of the replanting plan, Tori Frazer, said that “seeing this plan alone is very different from talking about what the vision is and how it would improve the entrance,” Mann replied: “I think he is. You are aware of what the proposal is, but you can certainly meet him.”

“I can’t speak to him, but he has never objected to meeting anyone on a tree topic,” said Mann. “So that’s a phone call or an email.”

Although the Garden Club asked for support from the commission at the meeting, the appointed panel decided to wait another month before voting on the nonprofit group’s proposal.

“I think we’d better wait,” said Inspector Matt Konspore. “In this way we punctuate our i and cross our T.”

The commissioners asked whether photos of the area had recently been taken as part of a presentation (yes), how many trees would be removed (all, including north of the well), how long peonies would bloom (approx. Four weeks), depending on the variety ) whether there are plans to protect the peonies on the east side of the walk as those already there are protected by a wall (there would be a cut edge in the lawn, possibly with mulch) where the Japanese maples would be transplanted if the plan (they would be transplanted at rest in winter, at a cost of about $ 5,000 per tree, although such transplants are never guaranteed because there is always a risk and they could be sold), such as the peony-and-nepeta beds would look if the flowers weren’t in bloom (the Nepeta has a long bloom and is hearty) and if any peonies were removed to match the colors (no).

Some Parks & Rec members said they liked the plantings along the way for what they are.

“I was in Waveny today and looked down from the top of the path and then up from the cabin and at least for me the maples are stunning and elegant, the color is just really amazing,” said Commissioner Hank Green. “And I understand the reason behind the appeal of classical symmetry, but I think this plan would really just create one long flower bed that blooms for a month, at the expense of Japanese maples, which I think are stunning and elegant for most of the time Year, and I’m not sure that’s a good compromise. I understand what you’re saying about the view, but I think people will be able to find the view even if the maples stay where they are. “

Commissioner Francesca Segalas said she especially likes maples in winter when they are covered in snow.

Commission Gene Goodman said: “I kind of like the maples, and I understand ‘welcome and balanced,’ but there are other words that could be used to describe the Japanese maples in a positive way. Personally, I would love to go back there and have a look before I feel more definitive. But I certainly hesitate to just do it – I always enjoy these maples and also do a tunnel towards the end. That has its advantages. “

During the presentation, Garrity referred to the pavilion as “Belvedere,” a term more commonly associated with house-attached rather than free-standing structures, and referred to the footpath north of it as the “Peony Walk”. She said that Herman had won awards and appeared in print publications, that the Garden Club and Conservancy are providing volunteer hours and money, signaled that the club would attempt to replace a 1912 Moroccan-style gate at the north end of the walk, and described the new plantings as the third and final major improvement on this part of Waveny, along with the walled and parterre gardens nearby.

“I think Mrs. Lewis Lapham, owner of Waveny, a founding member of our club and former president, would be very proud and delighted with what her club has achieved in these formal gardens,” said Garrity. She referred to Antoinette Lapham, who with her husband, a founder of Texaco, hired and worked with the Olmsted Brothers company (successor to Frederick Law Olmsted) to run Waveny after purchasing the property in 1904 and building Waveny House eight years to plan later (completed in 1914).

“This area of ​​the park is really special and a favorite spot for many visitors and brides,” said Garrity. “We believe that by adding the new bed of new peonies and nepeta we will complete the full restoration of these three garden areas and bring symmetry, new views and color from the parterre garden through the peony path to the walled garden. This project will create the final connection in the formal area of ​​the park. “

Mann asked for clarification on whether the original plan for the area included peony plantings and was told that it was not. (The Garden Club, which received approval to redesign the Parterre Garden in late 2017, encountered opposition from professional landscape architects who wanted to preserve the original Olmsted plan for Waveny.)

The new planting plan would cost $ 10,000, Frazer said. The Garden Club and the Conservancy would share the cost, she said.

Parks & Rec Chair Rona Siegel said the commission could hold a vote to inform Horan of their position on the planting proposal.

Mann said Horan would “hear about facets of the community, particularly the commission that oversees the park.”

“But as far as the law is concerned, there is no ambiguity,” said Mann.

He referred to Section 23-59 of the Provincial Law, “Powers and Duties of Arborists”, which states in part: “The urban or community arborist has the care and control of all trees and shrubs in whole or in part within the boundaries of a public road or public area and within the boundaries of his city or his district, except those along state roads under the control of the transport officer and except those in public parks or areas under the responsibility of the park officers, and of these the arborist takes care of the maintenance and control, if so by the parking inspectors are requested in writing. “

Recreation Director Steve Benko said that since the planting itself would not be done until the fall, it might be best to “let Bob speak to the group and hear their opinion and give them to the commission next meeting to talk about it, to vote on it so we don’t force it down his throat. “

Garrity replied that “we’ve never tried to shove it down his throat, I reject the term.”

“I would never think of doing anything like that,” she continued. “We are here to try to improve the park and we are not trying to ruin it. Anyway, yes, we can meet with him. I was hoping for a vote because we have to order the peonies and can think about preparing the beds. “

Commissioners Green and Laura Costigan thanked the Garden Club for its presentation. As Green voiced his concerns about the plan, he called the club and conservancy “treasures” for the park and town.

When the man found that a Google search for wedding photos on Waveny showed a couple was walking down the path as it is. Garrity said that there are photos like this with newlyweds in the downstairs garden.

“I think people have to be open-minded,” she said.

Mann replied, “I don’t think his mind is closed, Catherine.”

When Garrity said the Garden Club plants trees “all the time,” Mann noted that the arborist has always worked hand in hand with such organizations.

Garrity said Japanese maples should be planted one at a time, “not in a row”.

“They’re never planted like that,” she said. “So that’s another facet of it.”

Konspore said officials should try to find out why two of the Japanese maples died by the next Parks & Rec meeting (July 14). Garrity tried to say they might be sick, but Benko corrected them, saying a large maple tree destroyed the two maple trees when it came down during Super Storm Sandy.

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