The History of the Gardens of Grey Gardens

The History of the Gardens of Grey Gardens

Amy Azzarito
Apr 17, 2009
The walled garden at Grey Gardens (circa late teens or early 1920s) from Forty Years of Gardening via Stephen Orr

It's pretty obvious that we're excited for the upcoming HBO Grey Gardens movie. Even though we've seen and loved the Maysles' documentary, we hadn't really thought much about the gardens for which the home is named. When reading fantastic New York garden writer and editor Stephen Orr's blog, What Were the Skies Like, we were psyched to see that he had dug through old gardening books to uncover historic photographs of the walled garden.

Grey Gardens from Beautiful Gardens in America via Stephen Orr

Somehow we never realized that the gardens of Grey Gardens were walled. Walled gardens near the sea? Doesn't that just sound like the most romantic place ever? Before the home was purchased by the Beales, Mr. and Mrs. Robert C. Hill bought the home in 1913 as a summer cottage. (The home was built in 1897). Anna Gilman Hill, who was a dedicated horticulturist and garden writer, imported magnificent concrete walls from Spain to enclose the garden and temper the fierce winds and sea spray of eastern Long Island.

"It was truly a gray garden. The soft gray of the dunes, cement walls and sea mists gave us our color scheme as well as our name....nepeta, stachys, and pinks....clipped bunches of santolina, lavender and rosemary made gray mounds here and there. Only flowers in pale colors were allowed inside the walls, yet the effect was far from insipid....I close my eyes and sense again the scent of those wild roses, the caress of the hot sun on our backs as we sauntered to and fro from our bath and lazy mornings on the beach." — Anna Gilman Hill, former owner of Grey Gardens in her book Forty Years of Gardening

For more about the gardens of Grey Gardens, check out What Were the Skies Like and Grey Gardens Online.

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