Garden Design, This Month

The Woman’s Influence

Recently, Southampton Garden Club undertook a guided tour of the Madoo Conservancy’s Gardens in Sagaponack, NY. An intricate and complex garden, it has a healthy and picturesque form. Purchased by Robert Dash in 1967, Madoo was an active farm, complete with a cow in the barn, and a 2-acre piece of land that was used as a turnaround for trucks. At the beginning, Dash enjoyed the property as a meadow through which he cut paths and placed benches. In the 1980s, Dash began developing the property in a more “gardenesque” style, and a circle of like-minded friends followed. 

A not-so-hidden secret at Madoo is the presence and influence of Rosemary Verey, a renowned English garden designer who has created gardens for Prince Charles, Elton John and The New York Botanical Gardens, among many others. As a young woman, Verey studied Mathematics and Economics at the University of London. She married David Verey, an architect and architectural historian, and focussed on raising a family. At some point, the Vereys inherited Barnsley House, a former rectory situated on 11 acres in the Cotswolds. 

Influenced by another noted garden designer of the time, Percy Cane, Verey began designing the Barnsley House gardens with a focus on creating the longest possible vistas and perspectives. Verey’s gardens were always filled with interesting plants and flowers, but she also placed a strong emphasis on creating outdoor spaces that would be enjoyed by people. She believed that gardens should be functional as well as beautiful, and she was always looking for ways to make them more inviting. Her designs were often inspired by nature, and she was known for using unusual plants and materials in her gardens. She summarized her gardening credo as “Everywhere is the magic of the unexpected.” Verey’s unique style quickly gained popularity, and she became known as one of the leading voices in garden design.

Verey’s work in England helped to establish the country at the forefront of landscape design. In the 1970s, she was invited to teach at the University of California at Berkeley, where she shared her knowledge with students from all over the world. In later years, she returned to England to continue writing and teaching about gardening.

As a friend and a mentor to Robert Dash, the owner of Madoo, Verey left considerable touches there, such as a decorative vegetable garden, known as the potager, the reinvented English garden with parterres of clipped boxwood surrounding ornamental grasses and selected flowers, and canopies of gold leaves and flowers, to name a few. Perhaps the most stunning influence by Verey is the perspective culminating by a sliver of a mirror, suggesting an infinite site line beyond what turns out to be the end of the property. Verey’s own garden at Madoo is a showcase of her unique style, and it attracts visitors from all over the world. 

In 1991, Rosemary Verey was instrumental in founding the Madoo Conservancy. The conservancy is an educational center dedicated to promoting sustainable gardening practices. She remained involved with Madoo until her death in 2000.

Rosemary Verey was a groundbreaking gardener whose work helped to define the art of garden design. Her passion for flowers and plants was evident in everything she created, and her gardens always felt like welcoming oases amid the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Thanks to her influence, gardening has become one of the most popular hobbies in the world, and more people than ever are able to appreciate the beauty of nature firsthand. Verey’s philosophy can be found in more detail in her many well-illustrated books, including “Making of a Garden”, “English Country Gardens”, “The American Woman’s Garden”, “The American Man’s Garden”, “Good Planting Plans”, “Scented Garden”, “A Countrywoman’s Year” and many others.