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Cobble Pond Farm: Deep Roots

Cobble Pond Farm: Deep Roots

Written by Tovah Martin

Photos by Rana Faure

Cobble Pond Farm is all about stewardship for the future and respect for the past. 

Arrive at Cobble Pond Farm, and you feel its presence. There’s an embracing quality to Kathleen Metz’s 250-acre Sharon property; there’s a sense of being enveloped in its volume. But you can’t quite put your finger on what sparks the overwhelmingly unique experience until you realize: It’s the trees that set this estate apart. 

Cobble Pond Farm is a unique sylvan adventure. The beauty of this meticulously maintained landscape lies partly in the diversity of trees, including specimens that have lived on the property for a hundred years or more performing beside recent arboreal introductions. Every individual is flourishing in radiant health and harmony, thanks to painstaking stewardship. This is a property that looks and feels deeply loved.

Initially, it was Kathleen Metz’s husband, the late Jay Metz, who discovered the Sharon estate in 1981 and coaxed Kathleen to leave their beloved Salisbury garden and adopt the orphaned property that sat vacant for too long. The vestiges of a formal garden remained. Several impressive trees were already in residence, but the Metzes were unaware of the property’s pedigree. It wasn’t until 1995, when Kathleen was in the throes of designing the garden, that her gardener stumbled on the original garden plans while rummaging in the attic of the potting shed. Those plans revealed a fascinating truth: The garden was originally laid out by the Olmsted Brothers. That knowledge put another level of pride in the project, but the Metzes were already deeply committed. 

The formal garden within the clipped yew hedge is the space that has Olmsted written all over it. Getting the yew pruning right to expose all angles to sufficient light has been a long-standing challenge. Meanwhile, perennials within the beds are a smart selection for partial shade including astrantia, kirengeshoma, chelone, filipendula, lady’s mantle, peonies, and painted ferns. From spring onward, the space is a wash of gentle color and texture.

Marsha Kaufman of Gardenscapes has been coming to Cobble Pond Farm every Tuesday for 22 years to design and tend the landscape. Invariably, Kathleen Metz works beside her as they decide how the garden can be perfected. Twice annually they take a field trip to Rosedale Nursery with the specific mission of selecting 10-12 trees to bolster the aging woody inventory at Cobble Pond Farm. Those trips have brought novelties such as a yellowwood, tricolor beech, and Cornus kousa ‘Wolf Eyes’ into the picture. A rare weeping hornbeam and fastigiate Norway maples were found during other nursery quests. Those newbies join phenomenal woody residents with deep roots such as an enormous gingko and an equally impressive copper beech. A notable future addition will be a mature white oak, inspired by Doug Tallamy’s revelations about the essential role oaks play in the preservation of native pollinators. Similarly, environmental action has caused a swing in the property’s pendulum. “Before it was primarily about beauty,” Kaufman says of their plant selection. “Now, native plants are always on our mind.”

Shrubs form a mid-layer and they are also carefully selected. From variegated smoke bush to dark-leaved elderberry, shrubs jazz up the garden with flashy leaves. When everything is in full flower, the overall picture is incredibly lush. It’s ravishing, but it’s not a carnival. “It’s all about continuity,” says Metz, “everything has to relate in color, shape, and form.” And it’s not only about late spring/early summer. Throughout the year, Cobble Pond Farm is exuberant. “We’re very proud of what we’ve done here,” Metz admits, “We have a good time working together and that’s reflected in the garden. It’s like a happy home.”

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