Christopher Spitzmiller’s Gardening Tips

A vase of peonies from Christopher Spitzmiller's farm.

An avid gardener, Spitzmiller escapes to his 5.5-acre Clove Brook Farm in Millbrook, NY, most weekends. He shared with us how he’s cultivated the perfect pastoral retreat.

How he got started:

“My father had a big vegetable garden when I was a kid. When I started at Clove Brook I had a small plot and I grew mostly vegetables. I quickly learned I could go to the farmer’s market up there and get tomatoes that were so much better than what I could grow, but what I couldn’t get up there were dahlias and hydrangeas, so I started to grow them. All the people who I hang out with—Bunny Williams, P Allen Smith, Martha [Stewart]—are all big gardeners, so it just kind of grew under
my skin.”

His flower philosophy:

“I do tulips in the beginning of the year. Then the peonies arrive. I planted over 200 individual peonies up there. And then there’s this big herbaceous bed, and then the summer goes on and a succession of sweet peas comes next. Then in July, there’s this huge trumpet of oriental lilies. In August, the dahlias start flowering. The hydrangea flower all summer. The trick is to have things around all the time that you can cut and bring in the house and enjoy.”

Spitzmiller with Martha Stewart, Clare Potter and Bunny Williams
Spitzmiller with Martha Stewart, Clare Potter and Bunny Williams
On having famous gardener friends:

“When Martha Stewart introduces you to a friend and says, ‘He’s a hell of a gardener,’ you’re like OK, I’ve made it.”

On gardening challenges:

“Sweet peas are difficult to grow, but I keep trying. That’s part of the fun of gardening. You try to do different things and do it a different way, and it’s a challenge. When I’m out there and I’m filthy, I don’t think about the people who haven’t called me back or any of the disappointments I have in life, I only think about what’s in front of me and how it’s doing.”