Trade Secrets 2017: The Major General Ashley House

The handsome eighteenth century General Ashley House sits on a breathtakingly romantic piece of land, with lawn and meadow sloping down to a wide and quiet bend on the Housatonic River. Great sugar maples, black locusts, and an ancient willow, its low branches propped with forked logs and harboring a child’s swing, offer shade around the house. Ferns and daffodils are naturalized under the maples, and more spring bulbs border a stream that spills into the river.

A formal garden of boxwood parterres and brick paths, created by garden designer Nancy McCabe, is on axis with the striking front door of the house. Wooden tuteurs in the center of each bed are covered with clematis in summer and the beds beneath are filled with peonies and Russian sage. A colonial picket fence and spirea hedge enclose the garden, and ‘Prairie Fire’ crabapples separate the garden from the road.

A long, low pool house and pool are hidden from sight by a high privet hedge and carved wooden gate to one side of the house. Another glorious view of the river is afforded the swimmer, but on the opposite side of the pool house, a broad lawn is bordered by a mixed bed of flowering shrubs and perennials, and framed on either end by two huge hedges of yew, shaped into clouds. The talented designer and topiary maven, Matt Larkin, has been clipping those hedges for the last fifteen years. At the request of the owner, he is shaping some of the clouds into birds.