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Pretty, Orderly Connecticut Garden
Like her Ellen Tracy fashion line, Linda Allard’s Connecticut garden beautifully pairs form and function
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The knack of dressing for success just seems to be part of Linda Allard’s DNA. At the same time she was guiding the Ellen Tracy label to a place among the nation’s top 10 fashion houses, Linda also was stitching together a design for the landscape outside her own house in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut.
She envisioned a textural tapestry of plantings with strong lines and a carefully calibrated color palette. There would be beautiful blooms, yes, but the landscape also would reflect the practical thread that runs through Linda’s life and through her clothing designs. An ardent cook, Linda wanted to grow food.
Lettuces, beans, kale, squash, and herbs would make up the fabric of her garden. The first year, she laid out the plantings inside a “hedge” of parsley, using the herb as an impromptu stand-in to suggest where the neatly clipped boxwood would someday stretch. Today, those boxwood guard veggies from summer winds and shield perennials from winter snows. Monastic walls extending from the house, designed by her architect brother, David Allard, also protect the garden while adding to the home’s Italian villa feel.
An antique sundial surrounded by herbs marks time in the center of the boxwood parterre.
Photography: Rob Cardillo
Tree roses are the landscape’s stars, adding sparks of color to the scene. They run up arbor after arbor, set in a dramatic path akin to a fashion runway. More structure comes from espaliered fruit trees that stretch their limbs along the garden walls. Vegetables, meanwhile, march down straight rows meant to be harvested. Sailor-blue borage, flowering sage, and pollinator-pleasing nepeta weave in additional color and texture.
‘New Dawn’, ‘White Dawn’, and heritage roses climb the arbors running on the cross axis in the walled garden with Demeter (goddess of the harvest) as the focal point.
‘Crimson Sky’ rose creates a pop of color in the walled garden.
The hardworking garden pleases the senses while supplying the staples for fare prepared by the resident fresh foodie. Famed for her stylish yet comfortable clothing line, Linda also dines simply but tastefully. “Precious food is so not me,” she says. “I prefer the purity of vegetables with an herb or two for flavor.” She trawls seed catalogs for varieties that will make her meals savory.
Nepeta runs beneath the main columnar crabapple allée of the walled garden.
It’s not at all surprising that Linda’s garden is accessorized with impeccably placed statuary focal points. Even the compost bins (hidden behind the wall) are outfitted with classic statues. Gated walls are bejeweled with hinges hand-forged at a nearby abbey.
In addition to guarding the garden from the elements, the wall keeps critters at bay. It’s especially effective since Linda added a “ha-ha”—a steep ditch just outside the wall—that prevents deer from getting in and wreaking havoc with the plants. Below the ha-ha, an orchard is so bountiful that Linda shares the excess, giving bushels of apples to charity.
A pair of putti play in front of the espaliered fruit trees in the walled garden. Tuteurs of ‘Jackmanii’ clematis frame the focal point.
A ‘Jackmanii’ cultivar injects just the right shade of purple.
Tools are stored inside twin sheds.
Rows of onions, lettuce, fennel, and artichokes stretch beside nepeta and espaliered fruit trees in the walled garden.
Linda prefers ‘Green Arrow’ shelling peas for their long, prolific pods.
Linda ties radicchio for blanching to prevent the central leaves from turning bitter.
Always searching for a better vegetable, Linda looks for a fennel with tasty fronds and a nonpithy bulb.
On the villa’s other wing, climbing Austin roses in very specific shades ascend the walls leading into the pool/outdoor kitchen area. The palette is composed of purplish-reds and pinks. “No orange-reds,” Linda says. But much of the landscape is a flow of soothing green-on-green. “I like calm rather than energetic,” Linda explains. The scene could be Tuscany but for the iconic New England countryside draping the contours in the distance. To bring that tapestry closer to her door, Linda laid a nubby meadow in the foreground of her property, which she christened Highmeadows.
Thornless rose ‘Zephirine Drouhin’ climbs a column leading into the pool area.
Linda originally thought she wanted an English country house on her Litchfield Hills property. Then she saw Philip Trager’s book The Villas of Palladio. The photos of massive Palladian windows overlooking wildflower meadows changed her mind. Linda dialed up her architect brother, David, to say, “I think we need to go to Italy.” Her take on the villa is flanked by two columnar beech trees that evoke Italian cypresses.
A collection of baskets—that could be filled with veggies at a moment's notice—decorate one of the terrace walls.
Now, 50 years after she boarded a Greyhound bus for New York with only $200 and a degree from Kent State University, Linda is retired from Ellen Tracy. The fashionista-turned-foodie—she wrote and illustrated the book Absolutely Delicious!—immerses herself in the garden, selecting seeds of favorite beans, tying up tasty radicchio, drying herbs, preserving tomatoes. By day, she wears jeans to garden. In the evenings, she slips into something linen to sip wine and admire the view in a place that feels more like home and less like haute couture. It’s a good fit.
The daughter of an Ohio seamstress, Linda Allard changed the way women dressed for success in the workplace as director of design at Ellen Tracy. Now gardening has her heart.