Rosalia Sanni Breaks Down 2 Garden Designs

The landscape designer takes us inside a couple of her projects and drops a few tips and tricks along the way.
181 Shore Rd Greenwich Landscape 2018 Modern Fotographic By Dave Noonan 4 Of 20 Lc

Young early-season crops are grown with marigolds—a versatile companion plant that attracts beneficial pollinators and repels pests. Photograph by Dave Noonan.

CTC&G caught up with landscape designer Rosalia Sanni, of Rosalia Sanni Design in Greenwich, to get her take on the popular vegetable-garden trend. Specifically, we asked Sanni—who is the former education director on the board of the Greenwich Community Garden—to tell us about two very different vegetable gardens that she designed for clients in Connecticut.

A CHEF’S GARDEN

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The paths and beds are laid out in a grid, making it easy to reach inside to harvest produce without disturbing the growing plants and their sensitive roots. Photograph courtesy of Rosalia Sanni Design LLC.

Why did your clients request a vegetable garden? Also, do they maintain the garden themselves? While the kids in the family do go into the garden to search for treats to nibble on, the main caretaker is the family’s private chef. He comes from a farm-to-table restaurant background and is used to preparing seasonal foods. He asked for this garden, which is why we call this the chef’s garden. 

What was your thinking about the placement and design of the garden? This is a small part of a larger five-acre property. We wanted something small and private in a sunny spot. We tucked it next to the guest house as a welcome respite for visitors. We enclosed it with a custom-painted, steel-mesh fence and wrapped it in hornbeam hedges. We used a mix of gravel, granite pavers and lawn paths for easy access to tend the garden’s four beds. It’s about 15 feet by 27 feet overall, in a hidden area that would not have otherwise gotten much use. 

What was the process for choosing which vegetables to include? The chef’s process is interesting—he works out a basic framework for his recipes and meals early in the year, and then requests what crops he would like us to incorporate. Some of his special choices include borage, lemon balm and anise hyssop.

What are some general tips for readers about creating a vegetable garden? All gardens do best when enclosed. This garden was fenced with mesh that goes into the ground to keep critters from digging their way in. If you end up getting bunnies in the garden, you’ll be living out the plot of a Beatrix Potter book. 

Anything unique about the garden? What’s special about this garden is that it is designed to be flexible. The homeowners weren’t sure if this was going to work out with the way they live, but were willing to experiment and play things by ear. We meet every year and regroup as a team to find out what worked and what didn’t, and adjust from there. This year, we are talking about working in cutting flowers.

Old Greenwich 6876 Photo By Jgg

Lettuce enjoys the company of tomatoes, growing in their shade. Photograph by Jorge Gonzalez-Guillot.

A HISTORY-INSPIRED GARDEN

Why did your clients request a vegetable garden? Also, do they maintain the garden themselves? They were in the middle of a house construction project, and before moving, gave me a wish list for their landscape. Part of that was to have a small garden for herbs, vegetables and maybe some fruit. It was something they wanted to try and seemed a perfectly suitable addition to the property. 

What was your thinking about the placement and design of the garden? We placed the garden by the historic portion of the property, next to the old saltbox home, which we found out is the oldest house in Greenwich. It was owned by Elizabeth Fones Winthrop Feake Hallet, who was featured in the historical novel Winthrop Woman. It seemed fitting to place our garden near that structure, as we could all imagine that as far back as 1645, a colonial kitchen garden probably stood there once before. 

Rsd Feake 4lc Photo By Rsd

A post-and-rail fence is lined with mesh to keep critters out. Photograph courtesy of Rosalia Sanni Designs LLC.

What was the process for choosing which vegetables to include? My office provided the garden design, and the family handles the vegetables and planning out the beds. They go to the local nursery during planting season to pick up the seedlings and plant them, and sow seed directly in the garden too. They included tomatoes, cucumbers, rainbow Swiss chard and broccoli. 

Do you have any general tips for readers about creating a vegetable garden? We used raised beds here, which has been shown to yield more produce. It is also easier to reach for anyone who might have back problems and perfect eye level for small kids. The property does not get deer, so we installed a low post-and-rail fencing with mesh for curb appeal from the road and to protect from small critters.

Anything unique about the garden? While this is not a historical garden, it was informed by history, and research was done on what plantings might have surrounded the home originally. We added an apple tree—which was a popular import during colonial times—and high bush blueberries, which are native to this area. They might have found their way into a kitchen garden back then, same as now. We also added apothecary roses, which are not only beautiful but have also been used for medicinal and household purposes throughout history.