North Hill Garden

September24th

12 Comments

Wayne was half the soul of North Hill, that magical northern place of verdant gardens, music, farm animals, and good food, created, refined, and nurtured for several decades in partnership with Joe Eck. We, the public, were privy to their life there through their writings in a number of entrancing books, the most recent being Our Life in Gardens.

A few of us were even more fortunate. Wayne was an inveterate letter-writer, effortlessly filling pages in a manner more common in an earlier century. For a number of years, he and I carried on a conversation through e-mail, weekly, sometimes daily, about our separate lives, what filled our days, about our thoughts and feelings. In this way we became intimate with each other, more than our periodic visits could possibly afford.

Wayne was an early riser, routinely composing his letters before Joe was awake, before it was time to get breakfast, sitting at an ample desk in his charmingly arranged bedroom with his adored canaries for company. In those early morning hours, he wrote of their travels, to give talks or design gardens, always describing the place and the people with a
masterly eye for detail, invariably inserting an appropriate quote from some classic novel or play or poem that I might have read but certainly had forgotten, for his memory was prodigious, and literature was a life blood, infusing his thoughts. But mostly Wayne wrote about their life at North Hill. The weather was recorded, of course, so vital a detail to us gardeners, and always what was happening in the garden. In the dead of winter with snow piled outside the windows he described the camellias flowering in the little greenhouse off the kitchen, and how he would pick one of two for the table. He wrote of the view from the bathroom window when the stewartia was covered with ravishing white saucers in June. In early spring he marvelled at their field of daffodils and at the succesion of magnolias opening their waxy cups and scenting the air in defiance of frost. He offered precious tidbits of gardening advice, how best to grow the primrose seed he sent us, in a flat left out all winter, or how the handsome Begonia sutherlandii he gave us would go dormant in late fall, but could be revived the following spring.

He wrote too about their adventures with their animals, how the calf got loose and was caught finally by their treasured helper John who had a way with the beasts; how they fattened their two pigs in early fall with heirloom apples that were a windfall from the orchard at Scott Farm, providing them with a last feast for a month or two before they were slaughtered.

He wrote about their nest, how he would polish the kitchen floor before company arrived, and spend winter days painting one room and then another, and lovingly rearranging their collection of art and artifacts, paintings and crockery. Music was a huge part of Wayne’s life with Joe, and they invited musicians to come give concerts in the intimacy of their living room where Kipling’s piano had pride of place.

Wayne reported who was coming to visit–their beloved adopted son Fotios and his friends most frequently, but also a stream of visitors and houseguests in spring and summer. He used to say that he and Joe were hermits, which was demonstrably untrue, except perhaps in the depths of winter. Always, at the end of a letter, he described in detail what he was cooking for his friends and family– the chicken pot pie made with
broth from one of their old hens, the pork chops or ribs with green Egyptian onions pulled from the vegetable garden when the earth was still cold and damp in April. Food was one of his gifts, the making of food, and he planned his menus way in advance–he said he didn’t like surprises. The meals he made were, for him, an offering of love, an expression of the place.

In his letters, he spoke of his feelings, struggling occasionally with depression in the long winters, and even briefly in mid-summer, feeling deflated after the fresh thrill and spectacular show of spring in their garden. Wayne was sometimes nervous in company, tense and overly-excited, due to an innate shyness, I think. But at his desk, the words, the thoughts, the ease of friendship flowed from his pen, or keys, beautifully expressed, without hesitation or consciousness. He was a natural writer.

He often advised me like an older brother, though he was a year or two younger, always encouraging me, admonishing me to write and write some more, not letters but books, offering to read my efforts, his love and support seeping through the computer where our dialogues were captured. I cannot yet grasp that our conversation has ended, that our wonderful friendship is no more. But, at least, we can all be comforted knowing that he has left his voice behind on the printed page.

Wayne died of heart failure at North Hill on Friday, September 17.

12 Comments

  • Comment by Anne — September 29, 2010 @ 9:40 pm

    Thank you for sharing your memories of Wayne Winterrowd. I wish I had the privilege of knowing him. How lucky you have been to have known him as you did. And I am grateful to have learned so much more about this wonderful man from you. My condolences to Joe Eck, to his son Fotios, and to family and friends.

  • Comment by Roxana Robinson — October 3, 2010 @ 12:42 am

    Page, this is a beautiful tribute, and a lovely picture of the man. We are all impoverished by his death, but we are all the richer for his life – for his generosity, his skill and his powers of sharing.

  • Comment by Barbara Clements — October 4, 2010 @ 12:22 pm

    On the few occasions I spent in Wayne’s company his great warmth and good humor were always welcoming. Those moments led me to his books, the vast knowledge he readily shared about gardens and gardening. Reading them, one clearly senses his delight, his great pleasure in cultivating beauty… ultimately, a gift to us all.
    I urge the garden community at large to support the continuation of Wayne and Joe’s wonderful garden at North Hill through donation to the Memorial Fund created in Wayne’s memory. There could be no better legacy than this, the place where Wayne’s creativity, skill and whimsy are forever revealed, season after season. My condolences to Joe, Fotios and family.

  • Comment by Barbara Farnsworth — October 6, 2010 @ 11:37 am

    Thank you, Page, for your beautiful essay. As a gardener, I treasure Wayne and Joe’s books, and figure that if they could grow it in southern Vermont, I could at least try in northern Connecticut. Few gardener/writers have been so warmly inspiring to so many, and that, I think, is a fine legacy to leave. Such a sadness, though.

  • Comment by jack staub — October 8, 2010 @ 11:12 am

    page:

    so fitting and lovely for such a loss. thankfully, wayne’s (and joe’s) words live so vivaciously on in their writing, and we will eternally be the greater for it. thinking of you.

  • Comment by David Hildreth — October 10, 2010 @ 11:43 pm

    Even if Wayne had never planted a bulb or pruned a branch, or written a book, I would remember him, as I often found him, in Beth’s parents’ kitchen, for some reason usually in his socks, working always without recipes, to produce a meal that would have satisfied longshoremen, much less gardeners and their relatives. He could cook for a half dozen or for dozens; I saw him do both. Joe told us in hushed tones that Wayne needed to be alone in the kitchen, and we always pretended to respect that until we didn’t. He taught me to cut out biscuits with a tuna fish can, to add mushroom stock to my meatloaf, and how to make Brussles sprouts irresistable. He had read everything, a lot of it in French. He could turn the Southern accent on and off at will, and told me that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t lead a horticulture. He made a horrible mess in the kitchen. It was always obvious, every time you intruded on him, that nothing in the world could have pleased him more than to see you again.

  • Comment by Darlene Reinert — October 30, 2010 @ 10:24 am

    I didn’t know Wayne Winterrowd, although I sometimes felt as if I did. I have his book on North Hill and read articles by him whenever I could find them. And, of course, followed his “North Hill Notes” in Horticulture magazine. But when I read of his death in Horticulture’s Special Edition I was as shocked and saddened as if he’d been a relative. I still can’t believe it. So young with so much information and advice and pure pleasure still to give. He will be missed by so many — people who knew him well but also others who only knew him through his writings. And most of all,naturally, by his loving spouse, Joe Eck, and their son. Sad, so sad.

  • Comment by Mary McCarthy — November 13, 2010 @ 12:47 pm

    I am deeply saddened to read of the passing of Wayne Winterrowd. The news shocked me and I too responded in the manner in which one would had he been my close relative. My heart goes out to Joe Eck, their son, and all who feel his absence so dearly.
    Beginning in the first chapter of Our Life in Gardens, continuing to the last words on the page, I felt so strongly about how absolutely marvelous it was. I was determined to write a “fan letter” to the authors but alas, that was last year, and I never did. I truly regret that now.

  • Comment by Sharron Clemons — December 21, 2010 @ 6:01 pm

    Thank you for sharing your memories of Wayne Winterrowd. I wish I had the privilege of knowing him. How lucky you have been to have known him as you did. And I am grateful to have learned so much more about this wonderful man from you. My condolences to Joe Eck, to his son Fotios, and to family and friends.

  • Comment by Marisol Perry — December 21, 2010 @ 10:29 pm

    Thank you, Page, for your beautiful essay. As a gardener, I treasure Wayne and Joe’s books, and figure that if they could grow it in southern Vermont, I could at least try in northern Connecticut. Few gardener/writers have been so warmly inspiring to so many, and that, I think, is a fine legacy to leave. Such a sadness, though.

  • Comment by Latoya Bridges — December 22, 2010 @ 5:10 am

    I am deeply saddened to read of the passing of Wayne Winterrowd. The news shocked me and I too responded in the manner in which one would had he been my close relative. My heart goes out to Joe Eck, their son, and all who feel his absence so dearly. Beginning in the first chapter of Our Life in Gardens, continuing to the last words on the page, I felt so strongly about how absolutely marvelous it was. I was determined to write a “fan letter” to the authors but alas, that was last year, and I never did. I truly regret that now.

  • Comment by Hazel Wilkinson — December 29, 2010 @ 6:28 am

    Thank you, Page, for your beautiful essay. As a gardener, I treasure Wayne and Joe’s books, and figure that if they could grow it in southern Vermont, I could at least try in northern Connecticut. Few gardener/writers have been so warmly inspiring to so many, and that, I think, is a fine legacy to leave. Such a sadness, though.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

RSS