Jul 8, 2014
01:34 PM
Arts & Entertainment

NW Connecticut Arts Council Garden Party (With a Meal) July 12 in Harwinton

NW Connecticut Arts Council Garden Party (With a Meal) July 12 in Harwinton

Photos by Laurie Gaboardi/Litchfield County Times

A scene from the Harwinton gardens of Victoria Elliot and her husband, Dr. Marvin McMillen.

Once again, a Litchfield County couple will welcome visitors to a party in their historic gardens in Harwinton to benefit the Northwest Connecticut Arts Council.

The gardens at the home of Victoria Elliot and her husband, Dr. Marvin McMillen, were created by noted American architect Henry Hornbostel, who lived there for many years.

The third annual Blossoming of Arts & Culture Garden Party will be held July 12, from 4 to 7 p.m., at 10 Litchfield Road in Harwinton. In the event of rain, it will be held the following day.

Ms. Elliot, who asserted that she “not a gardener but my husband is a very avid one,” noted that the gardens were terraced by the acclaimed architect, who was the topic of a PBS special program.

“Five stone walls on the hill” delineate the different horticultural areas, she said, adding that “it’s a Gertrude Jekyll-inspired garden.” Ms. Jekyll (1843-1930) was an influential British garden designer.

Mr. Hornbostel (1867-1961), Dr. McMillen noted, “was really one of the movement who trained at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. He was responsible for the 59th Street Bridge [Queensboro Bridge], most of Carnegie Mellon University, half of Emory University, the New York State education building in Albany, the Soldiers and Sailors Museum in Pittsburgh, and our gardens.”

“He terraced the side of a hill at his home here in Harwinton and created four gardens,” said Dr. McMillen. “One was in the form of a French parterre; the second, a wild Connecticut garden; the third, with a small lake with a fountain; and the fourth, an ash grove.”

The couple has been living in the house, which was built in the 1830s, for 27 years, according to Ms. Elliot. Mr. Hornbostel called it home for 40 years, she said.

“It used to be The Elms, and there’s one elm left,” said Dr. McMillen. “When we moved in, the gardens were completely overgrown. Now, 60 trees and 20-plus years later, it’s probably two-thirds of what it used to be.”

Dr. McMillen, who is chief of surgery at Bristol Hospital, shared that gardening is “a constant reminder of time” and therapy for him as a way to unwind given the daily stress and obligations of his work.

“It’s very much a spiritual place where we spend a lot of time, and I feel a connection to time in this location and its passage,” he said.

Dr. McMillen and his wife spent a lot of time in England, where they visited many of its noteworthy gardens, he said, adding that while the philosophy of Gertrude Jekyll—“the crowdedness of the well-kept garden”—inspired him, his Jekyll-esque garden is “a Connecticut interpretation, a Connecticut version of an English garden.” The couple have also traveled in Italy, inspired by gardens there as well, he said—gardens that “have more structure than English gardens and more floriferous over four seasons.”

Guests at the garden party will have an opportunity to learn about the Northwest Connecticut Arts Council as they mingle with other guests and enjoy a three-course meal prepared by their hosts.

“We serve steamed salmon with various dressings such as dill and tartar sauces, sliced filet with horseradish sauce, pasta with pesto and salad, along with desserts brought by members of the board,” Ms. Elliot said. “It’s a cold meal that’s cooked fresh and served the same day.”

Hors d’oeuvres will be provided by a chef, and wine, beer and soft drinks will be served.

Short performances of musical entertainment will be offered by Joyful Noise, Litchfield Jazz Camp and Thomasina Levy, a former Connecticut state troubadour.

The gardens will be open not only to guests but to artists Catherine Elliott, Collette Hurst, Janet Iffland, Joan Jardine, Kathleen Kelly, Victor Leger, Deborah Leonard, Jim Laurino and Leslie Watkins, who will be painting outdoors (plein air) and offer additional works for sale as well.

Tickets cost $65 per person, $55 for council members, and $100 for benefactors.

Garden photographer and author Karen Bussolini, who is known to be an eco-friendly gardening coach, will be a special guest. She will give a talk entitled “Jazzing up the Garden with Color and Contrast” at 3:30 p.m., before the party begins, and admission is included in the benefactor ticket.

The event raises financial support as well as awareness for the Northwest Connecticut Arts Council.

The Torrington-based council was founded in 2003, a collaborative initiative of the Community Foundation of Northwest Connecticut and the Northwest Connecticut Chamber of Commerce.

“I support it,” Ms. Elliot said, “because of what it does for a lot of towns here in Northwestern Connecticut. I try to give fund-raising parties for causes that serve the region. I want people in different towns to be interested.”

The council’s service area includes Barkhamsted, Bethlehem, Burlington, Colebrook, Cornwall, Falls Village, Goshen, Hartland, Harwinton, Kent, Litchfield, Morris, New Hartford, New Milford, Norfolk, Canaan, Plymouth, Roxbury, Salisbury/Lakeville, Sharon, Thomaston, Warren, Washington and Winchester/Winsted as well as Torrington.

For more information about the benefit garden party and the arts council, call 860-618-0075 or visit online at www.artsnwct.org.

Editor's Note: This story appears in the July issue of the monthly LCT magazine, a publication of The Litchfield County Times.



NW Connecticut Arts Council Garden Party (With a Meal) July 12 in Harwinton

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