Eileen Roaman-Catalano and Mark Catalano


The house was on fire next door when they bought it. It had little foundation, and by the following spring they’d just begun planting fruit trees on the consumed house’s lot. The trees are all whips, she says, referring to their size: a bit thicker than your thumb, stiff and lean, a whip indeed. “I don’t know what they are going to see on this garden tour, I mean my garden,” and apologizes, gesturing around at the various piles of work. Work to be done indeed, but never done. In productive gardens there is always something in its infancy, there is often something very old (Note the wisteria). We begin to walk. There will be Italian varieties of pears, a few peaches, a Mirabelle plum. There used to be pears in Accabonac. They grow well here. That is what a man who would know told her.

It’s probably odd flattery to have a tour come through your private garden. Especially if you never thought one might. Here we have private gardens that are not really private, as the public is forever dropping in for functions of some sort. Here we also have private gardens that, though dazzling, are private for no one. And then we have private gardens that are personal, like this one.

There are beehives, and studios. An old cow barn, an oyster shed are still in use though for different things. Four kinds of spinach, four kinds of peas, many greens, beets, carrots, broccoli rabe. Spring foods will be replaced by summer ones. She leaves her lawn long. In the front of the house, the raspberries have come up into most of the beds and the spaces between. But it is a beloved fruit and so allowed this dominion. The house and the property are in good proportion and the rest is fairy dust. There are people who take their gardens seriously and there are people who take them as acts of nature. This garden shows the pragmatism of knowing it is both.