In his woods, a Nantucket gardener creates a fairyland with imaginative planting, whimsical artistry—and an appreciation for nature’s wild side.
What is it about woodland gardens that stir our feelings of enchantment? Perhaps it is some magical attraction that appeals to our collective unconsciousness, something buried deep in our childhood memories. The play of light and shadow in trees and shrubs; the fascinating movements of birds, butterflies and bees; the mystery and allure of nature all combine to create a feeling of wonder.
Thom Koon’s odyssey creating a famous Nantucket woodland garden was pure happenstance. Although his father was an avid gardener, he did not ask his son to help with planting or maintenance. “I never really gardened,” says Koon. “I lived in New York City for 15 years before coming to Nantucket in the late 1970s. All I can remember doing with plants was to buy an occasional orchid for the apartment, or grow herbs on the fire escape.”
Even after purchasing a two-acre plot of wooded scrubland off Nantucket’s Polpis Road with his partner Bart Cosgrove, it was another 12 years before Koon’s enchanted woodland would take shape.
It all began when Koon noticed a tree had fallen in the woods, not far from the house. He decided to hack his way through the underbrush to either right the tree or cut it down. After completing that chore, he noticed that he had created a path and opened up the canopy to a vision of blue sky and dappled sunlight.