WESTMINSTER — Internationally known garden designer Gordon Hayward, of Westminster West, has been named an honorary member of The Garden Club of America. He will be recognized at the GCA's annual meeting in Boston on Saturday.
To be eligible for this recognition, a person must have achieved distinction in horticulture or a related field, and must not currently be nor ever have been a member of the GCA. Honorary membership is limited to a maximum of four recipients each year. The Monadnock Garden Club nominated Hayward. The Dublin Garden Club of New Hampshire seconded the nomination.
Named along with Hayward were William G. Cullina, president and CEO of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens; Dr. Eric T. Haskell, distinguished educator, researcher, scholar, and linguist; and Dr. Richard T. Olsen, director of the United States National Arboretum.
Hayward has designed gardens professionally for more than 30 years. He has written 11 books on garden design, two of which have won national awards, as well as authored over 70 articles for Horticulture magazine. In addition, he is well regarded as a lecturer, having spoken across the country at garden clubs, symposiums, botanical gardens, conventions, and museums. He and his wife Mary have led 16 garden tours to southern England.
He attributes his success as a garden designer to his childhood, his teaching, and his wife.
Hayward grew up with his two brothers on his family's orchard in New Hartford, Connecticut, where his parents grew apples, peaches, and pears.
"We worked as a family in the orchard for nine months of the year," he said. "Then for three months, from late summer into fall, people came to our barn to buy fruit. Our parents greeted everyone, engaged with everyone, and accepted everyone — there was no judgment of social class. I carry with me the openness and acceptance of their world, traits that have influenced how I interacted with students when I was teaching, and with clients when I became a garden designer."
A further aspect of farm life, he said, was the combination of hard work done well and the resulting beauty.
"Trees were our livelihood," Hayward said. "All the necessary tasks — pruning, fertilizing, mowing under them — were intimately related to the health of the orchard. It was a beautiful environment: the trees in full bloom in the spring, then laden with fruit in the fall."
Hayward also learned, via his father's example, to value education. Hayward's father never attended college although he certainly could have as the scion of a banking family from Oyster Bay, New York.
"My grandfather had just bought the 200-year-old farm in Connecticut," Hayward said, "and my father wanted to create his own life there. Eventually, he came to regret his decision to forgo college. He read every night until one or two in the morning. Then at breakfast, he would tell my two brothers and me about what he had read. One winter he read all of Shakespeare, twice. All three of his sons were students of English or history."
A second influence Hayward cites was teaching, which he did for 15 years, first in Connecticut, then at Brattleboro Union High School from 1979 to 1984. His classroom experience gave him confidence as a speaker.
"Because of my teaching, I was able to present information in an engaging way," he said.
From 1995 to 2007, Hayward participated in nine multi-city lecture tours sponsored by "Horticulture Magazine," joining four others who were, Hayward said, the top garden writers and designers at work in America and England at the time.
"We traveled across America for 10 days at a time, lecturing in botanic gardens," he said. "I've lectured in 40 states. It was the headiest time in American
gardening since the late 1880s, and I found myself right in the middle of it, thanks to Horticulture Magazine."
Hayward's teaching also shaped how he approaches his garden design clients.
"My goal was always to help my students find their own voice in their writing," he said. "As a designer, I work with my clients to develop their own voice as gardeners. Their confidence grows as they implement the design plans and learn about plants, and they take pleasure in the result."
The third influence on Hayward has been his wife Mary. They wed three weeks after they met. Early in their marriage, they traveled in Europe, then lived in England for a year in a 17th-century cottage near the Hidcote Manor garden, widely regarded as the most influential garden in England in the 20th century.
The Hidcote garden, Hayward explained, was designed by Lawrence Johnston, an American, in the Arts and Crafts style. It is a garden of linked "rooms," a variety of intimate spaces, "each compelling but never grand and self-conscious," Hayward said. "It is a very sincere, personal garden, and has had more influence on me than any garden I've ever been in. In many ways, it is intimately related to the design of our garden."
Together the Haywards have developed an acre-and-a-half garden at their home, a 200-year-old Vermont farmhouse in Westminster West.
"Mary and I share a love of beauty and art," Hayward said, "and a deep connection to the land. Her family farm in the Cotswolds of England is located 10 miles from where Shakespeare wrote. The fields on which her family's sheep graze show the ridge-and-furrow ploughing system that dates from the Middle Ages. We both grew up in old houses.
"We feel profoundly the link between the past and the present," he continued, "a value that surfaces everywhere in the garden we have made. We are constantly looking to link the present garden to the past of the place, which is what gives the garden a soul."
The Hayward garden will be part of the Westminster Cares 18th annual Garden Tour on Saturday and Sunday, July 20 and 21, 2019, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets go on sale in mid-May. For more information, call 802-722-3607, or visit westminstercares.org, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nancy A. Olson, a frequent contributor, can be reached at email@example.com.