Untermyer Gardens: An Appreciation

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By Herbert Holler

Somehow, I really love gardens.

I say “somehow” because I am the very last person that would ever opt to spend extended time outside in the hot sun on my hands and knees, in the dirt, with the bugs and pollen, planting and pulling things. I had a landscaping job one summer in my youth; it lasted two weeks. (The sun was too much for my sensitive skin, my allergies were killing me, and I mowed over one-too-many sprinkler heads—one of which popped out from under the blade and dented a parked car.) My mother-in-law asked me to do some weeding in her huge garden out in Indiana last summer; I hid in the basement. I am a convicted orchid murderer.

Perhaps it’s better said like this: I really appreciate gardens.

One day I received an email talking about this magnificent, magical, mysterious walled garden in Yonkers that not many people heard of. I clicked through the link, to http://www.untermyergardens.org, and was taken here:


And here:


And here:


And I fell in love.

So now my side-project is helping Samuel Untermyer, and all of the people throughout time who’ve given their lives to his plot of land, to restore this breathtaking place to its former glory and bring back what was once known as “America’s Most Spectacular Garden.” And it is, without a doubt, “spectacular.” Its Indo-Persian walled gardens divided by waterways with paired, Sphynx-capped Ionic Cipollino-marble columns surrounded by a massive, walled enclosure. Its giant weeping beeches that spill over the entrance tower, greeting you as you approach the doorway inside. Its visually stunning vista that extends all the way to the mighty Palisades and leaves you marveling at a pair of 2,000-year-old ancient monolithic columns, the greatest of their kind in the Western Hemisphere. Or its huge, ziggurat shaped swimming pool whose floor is flushed with renderings of ancient sea creatures, contributing to what might be the largest use of outdoor mosaic in all of America.

Please come and take a tour of Untermyer, where you’ll bear witness to its greatness, but also learn about its history and larger-than-life creator, Samuel Untermyer. If you fall for the gardens, you might like to attend our annual Summer Soulstice Sunset Soiree on June 16th–all proceeds benefiting the garden, of course. (Martha Stewart is this year’s honorary chair.) And without a doubt, all/any donations made to help this extraordinary place blossom would be wonderfully helpful and most appreciated.

In love, and in light,