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Alice Van Tuyl

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Posted on August 13, 2009 |
By Andrea Suozzo



vantuyl.jpg

ADDISON — Nestled behind a distinguished brick house is Alice van Tuyl’s garden, where flowers gather around a rock-lined pond and grape vines creep over a wooden arbor.

“I’ve always been interested in flowers — always had some around,” said Van Tuyl.

Her love of flowers began when she was a young girl visiting her grandmother in Rhinebeck, N.Y. She was from New York City, but she would spend her summers in her grandmother’s garden on the Hudson River.

“She was an avid gardener, so that sort of began it all,” said Van Tuyl.

Van Tuyl and her husband both worked in Washington, D.C., for most of their lives, with a small plot of suburban land in Virginia and little time to maintain it. She had some flowers there, but never had a large garden.

But when they retired in 1987, the couple decided to come north and bought a house near Middlebury College, where one of their daughters had gone to school. The move gave Van Tuyl the opportunity to garden in earnest.

“This is my realization of a country garden, which I’ve always wanted,” said Van Tuyl.
The hardest thing about starting a garden, she said, is finding the right place. Plants require different amounts of shade and shelter from the wind.

And moving from Virginia, Van Tuyl had to adapt her gardening style to the weather as well.
“It’s just so darn hot there,” she said. “(In Vermont) you just don’t know what the winter will do, so it’s good to stick to the basic things that grow here.”

After she moved, it took Van Tuyl four or five years to get her garden flourishing. Ever since, she says, the plants have been very healthy.

The beds of the garden are resplendent with flocks, bee balm, mallow, coneflowers, and multi-colored johnny jump ups. And if the flowers were not enough, large zucchini lurk under many leaves in her garden.

“It’s a kaleidoscope,” said Van Tuyl. “It just changes constantly — I learn all the time what will grow, what won’t grow, what looks right, what doesn’t.”

Standing by the pond, the background slowly comes into focus beyond the tall flowers — green fields scattered with red barns slope away, and the Adirondack mountains rise up behind them.

“The view,” said Van Tuyl, looking into the distance. “That’s part of the garden, too.”

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