A few summers ago, photographer Alison Engstrom and I took an early morning Amtrak north from New York City to Hudson to visit artist Helen Dealtry and Dan Barry in their clapboard house, tucked behind a hedgerow in the small upstate town of Claverack. The light was too harsh at midday to photograph the gardens, but after we finished shooting the eclectic interiors (see An Artist’s Circa-1830 Home in Claverack, New York), we noticed early-evening dappled light—and stepped outside to capture a few shots of the quiet gardens, just in time. Here’s a look.
The couple was living in Brooklyn when they discovered the house online in the fall of 2016. The gardens, by landscape designer Peter Bevacqua, were mostly in place. Bevacqua has become a friend: He lives down the street amid sprawling, intricate gardens. On the day we visited, Dealtry pointed out two long, oval pieces of honeycomb in their dining room, a gift from Bevacqua and his bees.
Hedge maintenance is a running joke in the neighborhood: It’s rumored some spend tens of thousands of dollars on their upkeep. (For their part, Dealtry and Barry say, they hire a crew to trim their double front hedge of hornbeam and boxwood, plus some trees, a few times per year.)
The Summer Dining Patio
Helen does most of the gardening; fitting, as flowers and floral patterns are the focus of her work as a watercolor painter. (You can follow some of her sketches and paintings on Instagram @helendealtry; she also teaches workshops.)
Above: Among the flowers, roses and delphinium grow by the new gate.
Outdoor Living Room
“All the beds were existing; we have just added pots and a few new plants to the existing beds. The color scheme and planting were very simple and we have added a few new varieties such as lavender, roses, and delphiniums,” Dealtry says. She cuts foliage and flowers from the garden to paint, she adds: “I love to cut branches from the garden since we have so many trees. Also, the hostas are abundant and add a great sculptural structure to other more whimsical flowers.”
Beside the shed is a practical element: a tumble composter that the couple feeds with scraps from their kitchen. “It will be used on the flower beds in late fall,” Dealtry says. (Read more about the options in Hardscaping 101: Composting Systems.)