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International travel inspires South Deerfield garden

  • Seating area in the garden of Paul and Ann Marie Kostecki of Deerfield.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • A tuteur supporting herbs in the garden of Paul and Ann Marie Kostecki of Deerfield.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • A lace cap hydrangea in the garden of Paul and Ann Marie Kostecki of Deerfield.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • A view  through the garden room doors at the Deerfield home of Paul and Ann Marie Kostecki.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • The garden room at the home of Paul and Ann Marie Kostecki in Deerfield opens out onto a patio.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Wedding gown hydrangea in the garden of Paul and Ann Marie Kostecki of Deerfield.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Delphinium in the garden of Paul and Ann Marie Kostecki of Deerfield.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Paul and Ann Marie Kostecki of Deerfield pose in the portion of their garden enclosed by a rock wall Paul built.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • In the garden of Paul and Ann Marie Kostecki of Deerfield.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • The garden room of Paul and Ann Marie Kostecki of Deerfield.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • The garden room at the Deerfield home of Paul and Ann Marie Kostecki.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • A detail of the garden room at the Deerfield home of Paul and Ann Marie Kostecki.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • A view from the garden room at the Deerfield home of Paul and Ann Marie Kostecki.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

Inspired by trips to Tuscany, England and various parts of America, Ann Marie and Paul Kostecki have created a garden gem in South Deerfield that deserves to be the focus of a future garden tour.

Roses and clematis, delphiniums and boxwood all evoke English gardens, while an ornate fountain mounted on a fence and ‘Sky Pencil’ Japanese hollies are reminiscent of Italian landscapes.

In April, when, under the auspices of Bay State Perennial Farm, the Kosteckis gave a slide show at the Dickinson Library in Whately of their stunning garden, I made it a top priority for a column this year.

Last week, on a cloudy day, torrential downpours had drowned the roses but they were still breathtaking. Trees and shrubs on their corner lot screen their gardens from the street and the front gardens are attractive, but subdued.

However, from the slide show I knew the backyard was filled with garden rooms and colorful plants as well as incredible stonework.

Ann Marie Kostecki is the plantswoman, but without the hardscape — the brick terraces and the stone walls created by her husband — this would be a very different garden.

Although the Kostecki garden is hardly on the scale of Sissinghurst, the famous English garden, the couple has a gardening partnership like that forged by there by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson. Building stone walls and terraces is an art as well as a science.

The centerpiece of the Kostecki garden is a 40-foot-by-25-foot-garden surrounded by 3-foot tall stone walls with metal gates. When Ann Marie Kostecki saw a similar garden in England, she timidly asked her husband, “Could you build something like that?” While he assured her he could, he also warned that they couldn’t afford to purchase such a quantity of stone. “He brings me back to earth,” she said ruefully.

Undaunted, she vowed to find the stones and was thrilled to discover an enormous pile of rocks in Whately unearthed by the local highway department when reconstructing roads. The rocks were theirs for free if they would haul them away. Paul Kostecki spent every weekend for four months bringing the rocks home. “It ruined my truck,” he lamented. Then it took nearly another year to construct the garden walls. Flat stones are interspersed with larger round boulders and lichens give the walls a look of age. Kostecki laid brick walkways, which lead to a huge urn in the center.

Stately delphiniums, veronicastrum and Thalictrum rochebrunianum ‘Lavender Mist’ tower over the walls along with roses trained on tripods.

“I love verticals,” Ann Marie Kostecki said. She said she treats delphiniums as annuals, purchasing them from Andrew’s Greenhouse in South Amherst. “I just wait for them to go on sale.” She has about a dozen in various shades of blue, purple and lavender pink.

Blues and purples predominate in this garden, with Canterbury bells (Campanula media), foxgloves and various annual and perennial salvias. A peachy-pink ‘Abraham Darby’ rose, bred by David Austin, climbs one tripod while ‘Centennial’ is another standout.

“I don’t like a lot of yellow in the garden,” she said, but this rose is pale yellow and blends well with the other plants.

A ‘Bonica’ shrub rose in pale pink is another feature.

“I get three periods of bloom from ‘Bonica’,” she said, adding that it was her first attempt at growing roses and a gift from her gardener mother. “This is a no-brainer rose,” her mother had said. “You can’t kill it.”

The roses are fed Rose-tone, an organic fertilizer by Espoma along with an occasional bloom booster. She uses a systemic pesticide to deter beetles and disease.

While the walled garden is a memorable part of the overall design, the entire back of the house is surrounded with exquisite garden rooms, many of them quite formal in the Italian tradition.

One of the couple’s first projects, 28 years ago, was a deck and brick terrace built by Paul Kostecki, a self-taught mason. Last year both were revamped because an aging cherry tree had to be removed.

“It was rotting actually,” Ann Marie Kostecki said. Taking it down created “a whole different space.” The area is now much sunnier with a smaller deck and a larger brick terrace.

Paul Kostecki used bluestone for steps and tumbled concrete pavers as accents, the same pavers he used for a low wall delineating the terrace from the lawn. Along the back of the garage, they are growing lettuce, arugula, kale and herbs in one bed.

Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas are among Ann Marie Kostecki’s favorite plants, and she has several varieties. Absolutely stunning last week was an enormous blue lacecap Hydrangea serrata ‘Blue Billow’ in deep, deep blue. Lacecap varieties have flowers similar to the climbing form with a center of tight buds surrounded by single or double flowers. They are generally more tender in our area than the popular mopheads or snowballs.

Hydrangeas need a lot of moisture, she said, and she makes sure they are well-watered. She also grows them in partial shade rather than in full sun. “I really mulch them well,” she added, saying she finds bark mulch to be the most effective.

Last year she saw a new variety in the White Flower Farm catalog and she bought it this year from Bay State Perennial Farm. ‘Wedding Gown’ is a modified lacecap with double flowers so prolific that the plant looks like a big gardenia. It has creamy white flowers that bloom on new as well as old wood, so are more reliable bl oomers in the Pioneer Valley than older ones whose oldwood flower buds are often winterkilled. This is also a dwarf plant and enjoys the shelter of a stone wall in yet another “garden room.”

“This is a difficult space,” Kostecki said of this south-facing terrace off their indoor garden room. “In the afternoon it gets a lot of sun.”

The interior space has a cathedral ceiling, and an Italianate fresco frieze above arched windows with French doors leading to the brick terrace, again made by Paul Kostecki.

The patio is basically a white garden, Ann Marie Kostecki said. “I love white tulips and I have a little bit of white daffodils.” In addition, she uses annuals such as Pentas lanceolata in pots and Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ in the beds.

Pots are a favorite accent for Kostecki. A replica of an antique Italian pot, found at the Brimfield Antique Market, sits on the front steps, filled with plants. Under the pergola, with its fluted columns built by Paul Kostecki next to the walled garden, is a charming pot filled with fragrant purple heliotrope, more ‘Diamond Frost’ and a silver-leafed trailing dichondra.

“We love hunting for antique pots,” Ann Marie Kostecki said.

A passion for plants

When the Kosteckis moved into their house 28 years ago, they didn’t know much about gardening, even though her mother always had a garden.

“I didn’t know a rose from a hosta,” Ann Kostecki said.

Her mother’s garden was a community place for family and friends, a gathering place for eating and gardening.

“We’re Italian,” she said. “We did food and flowers.”

It wasn’t until a friend took her to a lecture at the Greenfield Garden Club that Kostecki became an ardent gardener. The speaker was the late Elsa Bakalar, an Englishwoman whose garden in Heath was legendary.

“I was enthralled by her,” shesaid. “She was so passionate.”

So she began to learn about plants and garden design.

“Paul and I love travel. He loves old architecture. He has a great eye,” she said.

“I drag him to gardens and he loves it.”

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