Tucked away within earshot of the Taconic Parkway in Ossining is a hidden gem, Sundial Farm. The owners and its farmers, Bill and Penny Hawkey, grow and sell hundreds of perennials, bulbs, grasses, shrubs and fresh organic vegetables.
"OK, I'm not objective," says Penny, "But my husband is the best horticulturist you'll have the good fortune to meet." Penny stresses that Sundial Farm is not a garden center. She explains that Bill is a perennial specialist - and a magician when it comes to growing plants that thrive in the northeast.
The extensive gardens at Sundial are open to gardeners looking for inspiration. Over the years, Bill has created shade gardens with ferns and hosta, a riotous rose garden - and impressive displays of native grasses that provide a background for flowering perennials and annuals.
The land at Sundial Farm has been farmed since the mid 1700s. The house, barns and blacksmith's cottage were built in 1780 and served as an inn and stagecoach stop for folks traveling north from Manhattan. A cave near the cottage was reputedly used by the Leatherman, a mysterious man who, for more than 30 years traveled between the Connecticut and Hudson Rivers on a circuit that took him 34 days.
Penny has been working full-time at the farm alongside her husband since she retired seven years ago. While Penny commuted into Manhattan, Bill stayed home with their five kids and ran a landscaping and nursery business. On summer weekends, Penny would take the kids and sell Bill's vegetables at a roadside stand in Mt. Kisco.
"In those days I was a big muckety-muck in advertising," she says. "I used to wonder if someone I knew would recognize me in my overalls, covered in dust, surrounded by kids and selling vegetables by the side of the road!"
If you visit Sundial Farms make sure you take a peek into the two barns next to the vegetable stand. You'll find an eclectic selection of antiques, mirrors, art and ceramics, all handpicked by Penny and her partner, Diane Arnold.
Have you been to Sundial Farm? If you go, check out their giant organic tomatoes.
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