The Traver Garden…a Treasure
in those Wolcott Hills
Rick Goodenough, Marshfield, MA
is a garden in the hills of Wolcott, Connecticut that will delight the eye
and set the imagination of a hosta connoisseur running rampant.
Wolcott is a historical town and historical for hostas as well with Hostas
‘Piedmont Gold’, ‘Wolcott’ and many other cultivars originated by
David Stone at Piedmont Gardens during the late 1900’s. In the
nearby garden of Matt Sanford, I remarked on some very large
pristinely grown specimen hostas that I had heard of, but had never seen,
Matt revealed his source of one of them and said, ”You’ve got to see
Ed’s garden…you won’t believe the numbers of mature specimen hostas
…and wait until you see his collection of Mary Chastain plants.”
Ed and Pat Traver
After hearing the superlatives from
Matt and later again in almost perfect unison from other nearby hosta
friends, Bill Meyer, Carol Brashear, and Kathie Sisson, my expectations
were raised, even peaked about getting to this Traver marvel they spoke
so highly of.
On finally arriving one late summer day, I found the garden
tucked in a neighborhood near the top of a winding wooded road. Ed Traver introduced himself and led me through the gate and into a lawn
with grassy fairways running among the massive borders of the garden. The sight was absolutely brimming with mature hostas of every
description. “Where to begin?”, I asked with some
bewilderment…be clear, this was excited bewilderment as I zoomed in on
classic after classic, like his well grown H. ‘Yellow River’
specimen or H. ‘Stingray’, then rarity after rarity like
‘Reflected Glory’ or ‘Simply Sharon’.
Immediately, I knew the Traver garden would be an inspiration garden for
folks across hostadom. The garden is spacious with wide lawns and
massive borders creatively combined to quickly sweep the visitor from
reality into another world. Ed and Pat Traver have gardened in
Wolcott for several years, but hostas have really only made their
inroads over the past 10 years or so. Ed focuses on hostas and Pat tries to keep him in check by adding other elements of garden
design as well as a nice mix of perennials and annuals. Occasionally Ed
has to be persuaded that there are a few other ornamental plant species
that also belong in a fine garden.
Together, they have amassed some 1450 hostas, many OS
cultivars, and have named varieties uncommon and rare filling up beds
like good soldiers in a garrison. Ironically, many of these fine
soldiers would be focal specimen plants in more typical hosta gardens.
I found myself as a bumblebee inspecting each and every plant he sees,
and was captured and just gawked saying, “so that is what Mildred
Seaver’s hosta, ‘Split Personality’ looks like”.
I had never seen this many well grown
mature hostas in one setting and after gazing and engrossing myself in
the magic show, I thought, where is this Mary Chastain collection
I have been hearing about? I did not need to ask as it was the
expansive well developed border I had passed on the right while looking
at the best place to start to be sure not to miss anything. I quickly came to realize that anyone with any eyesight remaining at all
would have known, but forget that - I was amazed. I had not seen many
of Mary’s plants and to get to see so many, some 135 all at once, made
me feel as if there was another entire set of species and cultivars that
had been discovered…right there in the Travers' Wolcott garden.
My hosta need list was quickly
pulled out and lots of notes were going in starting with 'Lakeside
Color Blue'  which exhibited strong blue very late in summer. I
found it hard to believe just how blue it remained when almost all
the other great blues had settled into their late-season green
After seeing one new-to-me cultivar after the next, I
was amazed to see his clump of ‘Lakeside Prophecy’ .
Seeing this one plant made my day, yet again and I think
singularly would have made the trip worthwhile. I saw a large well- proportioned mound
of perfectly spaced heavily- substanced leaves. They were
incredibly "nubbled" (which of course is an old yuppie
term for a rugose blend of wrinkled, crinkled, and pebbled leaf
surfaces), but in a uniform way which when combined with the
symmetry of the rest of the plant was inspiring to see. To
say it looked like a very large perfectly executed sculpture
in deep green vinyl chloride would make most of us turn away and
say what have they done to my favorite plant species now?
So my words cannot describe nor my camera depict the
absolute stunning beauty of this Lakeside cultivar. As many
of you know, I am a big fan of streakers and this one is what we
streaker nerds affectionately or sometimes derisively call a
greenie…but Ed Traver’s ‘Lakeside Prophecy’ is my personal
favorite hosta (at this writing) that I have ever seen.
Ed has some real Lakeside rarities including a
strikingly bold yellow, ‘Lakeside Cool Cat’, and the
stately upright green ‘Lakeside Khum Kaw’ just start the
list of outstanding and rare Lakeside hostas in the collection.
Ed continues to add when he can and most recently added a rare OS
‘Lakeside Paisley Print’  and ‘Lakeside Banana Bay’.
I see Ed and Pat’s garden in rarified company,
not unlike that of the Marines’ slogan, “The Few, the
Proud” with few other gardens having amassed such a fine
collection of classic hostas. And while neither Ed nor Pat
exhibit an ounce of arrogance, their garden is something to behold
and I certainly put it into the category of “The Proud”.
Every year Ed and Pat try to add plant material and
elements of design. Ed is currently adding a path that now
meanders in his garden with origins in local history. The
dark bricks he salvages from the Naugatuck River have rounded
edges, worn smooth by sheer force of water. These pavers are
remains of buildings destroyed over fifty years ago in a
devastating flood that rampaged through Waterbury in 1955. The
havoc that is still in the minds of old time Waterbury residents
now, in one small way, has a fresh and meaningful re-purposing as
treads in the new Traver garden path.
Like Matt Sanford, I am now urging others including
you… ”You’ve got to see Ed’s garden…you won’t believe
the numbers of mature specimen hostas …and just wait until you see
his collection of Mary Chastain plants.” It is worth the
train, bus, plane, or car to see this marvelous space that has
been lovingly pulled together by Pat and Ed…what a treasure to find
tucked away in the wooded Wolcott hills!