A Glimpse Of The Garden: Ida’s Garden Takes Shape

Photo: Nancy K. Crevier

Howard Lasher and two of his friends, Emma and Sara, stand next to the moon door at the entrance to Ida’s Garden, a memorial to his mother.

“A Glimpse Of The Garden” is a seasonal miniseries focusing on the heart of a gardener’s work — a special spot, an extraordinary plant, a place of respite, or a place that evokes a heartfelt memory.

What is down the garden path of your friends and neighbors? What is down your garden path?

It was in mid-March of this year, while walking his property, that Howard Lasher had a vision that his mother needed recognition. Ida Lasher, whose birthday was March 20, died in 1999 at the age of 85. She had been a huge influence on his life, said Mr Lasher.

“I was an only child, since my father passed away at the age of 33. We lived in a lower East Side tenement in Manhattan, and my mother worked 8 am to 6 pm, five days of the week, and from 9 am to 1 pm on Saturdays, in the garment center. She instilled in me a work ethic that has never left,” Mr Lasher said.

Jolly Hill, where Mr Lasher, the retired president of Lasher Group, Inc, at the American Stock Exchange and a former senior exchange official, and his wife, Jeanette Hubley, live was “a wilderness,” said Mr Lasher, when he bought the property 33 years ago.

Now, nearly six acres are planted in gardens that burst with color and texture year around. But the half-acre that called to him this spring was a tangle of brush, storm-damaged trees, and brambles. Still, he suddenly could see where the gardeners, artists, and landscapers he knew — Pasqual Pilato, Phil Arevalo, and Nicole Morris —  as well as the artistic input of his wife would all be able to bring to life his idea of a garden commemorating his mother.

“I wanted something here specifically for Ida, something that friends and family would see and know that she was here,” Mr Lasher said.

Four months and 400 feet of drainage, hundreds of pounds of grass seed, dozens of plant purchases, and 12,000 pounds of stone later, “Ida’s Garden” is well on its way to becoming the memorial to his mother that Mr Lasher first envisioned.

Two stone pillars, sunk eight feet into the earth, flank an 8-foot diameter iron ring of a moon door marking the entrance to Ida’s Garden. Running above the ring and secured on either side of the pillars are two hand hewn wooden beams, oiled and polished. The moon door is Mr Lasher’s concept, designed and implemented by his friend and wood artist, Pasqual Pilato. It is a monument worthy of the woman who shaped his life, he said.

“It’s a work in progress,” Mr Lasher said, but purposely having the open feel of a small park.

“I left the area open so that people could walk in and see a multitude of things — shrubs, trees, and plants,” Mr Lasher said.

  Stepping through the moon door, visitors amble down a slate path, the rough stones separated by moss harvested near a stream on the property. The walkway ends at a grassy expanse of land bordered by a stand of 50-year-old rhododendrons, cherry trees, a Berkeley blueberry tree, and viburnum shrubs, interspersed with flowering New Guinea impatiens, torenia, sedum, day lilies, and iris plants.

Cone flowers, milk weed, mint, honeysuckle and gladiolus will bloom and draw in hummingbirds and butterflies, he hopes. Pale green strands of Hakonechloa grass wave from small mounds, with taller astilbe sprouting deep red stalks behind them. Barberry bushes and box wood shrubs add texture to the scene.

A flat-topped boulder provides a place to sit and contemplate the paper bark maple tree ringed by more pink and white impatiens, and to listen to the many birds twittering in the branches. With the installation of Ida’s Garden, said Mr Lasher, he sees many more birds visiting that section of Jolly Hill.

He is very excited about the spring of 2015, he said, when the hundreds of daffodils bulbs planted will bring a burst of color all through Ida’s Garden. The bulbs were all purchased from Becky Heath in Virginia — “a ‘go-to’ call for me when I need bulbs,” Mr Lasher said — and the iris will add to the display. He is also looking forward to the blossoming of the red-vein enkianthus shrubs and peonies, as well.

“I know my mother is looking down on both [Jeanette and me] in this peaceful place,” Mr Lasher said. “Sometimes I sit on that rock and talk to her: Well, Ida, what do you think?”

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