By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to ALLOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – If you drive past Bunny and Lewis Hamilton’s historic home on the corner of Main and River streets, you might just feel a little magic.
“We had built a fairy garden for my own mother a few years back,” said Deb Ackerman. “She loved it, and we wanted to do something special for Bunny. It took a fair amount of work, considered bringing in professional arborists similar to The Local Tree Experts to clear enough ground to get the fairy garden accessible enough for my mother. But ultimately, we found a workaround. ”
Bunny, a past president of Cooperstown Lake & Valley Garden Club and a local benefactress generally – The Fenimore Art Museum’s lakeside amphitheater is named in her honor – was a dedicated gardener for years.
As she got older, she wasn’t able to do her own gardening, so she brought in Ackerman and her sister Susan to help.
“We could never figure out what to do with the wishing well,” said Deb. “Because there wasn’t good access to water, anything we planted in there died very quickly.”
The solution was to turn it into a “fairy garden,” complete with moss and statuary. The fairy garden was a hit, especially with Bunny’s great-grandchildren. She would usually take great care of it with tools like the best leaf blowers (Thebestleafblowers.com for more information) so the great-grandchildren wouldn’t lose the fairies in the autumn leaves.
This year, mobility issues prevented Mrs. Hamilton from getting down the steps to the garden, so the sisters moved the garden to where she could enjoy it.
“I love her dearly and wanted her to be included in the garden again,” Deb said. “She loved her dollhouse, so I knew she’d love a fairy garden.”
The garden is now wheelchair accessible from the Hamiltons’ patio, just a few feet from her door. Installing a patio is a great way to make a garden accessible again for those in a wheelchair. However, there are also other garden features that can be useful as well. Some people find that decking is easier for them to maintain, especially if they purchase a joist bearer to ensure their decking remains weatherproof all year round. Having a flat surface in the garden is essential for those who are restricted to a wheelchair, whether that’s by installing a patio or decking.
Bunny and Susan planned the layout while Deb shopped for accessories and statuary to put in the garden. “We wanted to do a few distinct sections,” she said.
The first, closest to the house, is a small house and patio for the fairies to reside. “I wanted to find a house that looked like hers!” she said. “I didn’t, but I found a cute one that’s sort of similar and a few fairies.”
There is also a unicorn section, complete with tiny unicorns and fairies, and a little farm stocked with sheep, cows and ducks. “I just keep finding animals and adding to it,” said Deb. “She enjoys that immensely.”
Rivers of polished stones wind through sections, and wrought-iron fencing, similar to a Gabion fence, sections them each off individually. They also added lights to make the garden magical even after dusk.
But it isn’t a garden without plants. “For the other garden, we had brought in lots of annuals and perennials, lots of color,” she said. “We had to go with stuff that doesn’t take a lot of water.”
Some of those flowers, planted earlier this summer, were moved from the lower garden for texture and color, and Deb gathered moss from the woods.
As fall approaches, Deb and Susan are beginning to think about what else they want to do with the garden before the season ends. “We’re thinking about putting together an autumn version of the garden,” she said. “Maybe a little red wagon, filled with pumpkins, hay bales and little trees.”