Behind The Dreamy Connecticut Garden 35 Years In the Making


connecticut garden

Design is a shared passion at the Westport, Connecticut, home of Paul, Brenda and Samantha Liistro. In the garden—designed, installed and tended to by Paul over the past three decades—a metal gazebo provides an immersive late afternoon perch to enjoy the bucolic setting. “I like to sit and watch the sun go down between the trees,” says Paul. “The whole complexion of the garden changes.”

“Chartreuse is my absolute favorite color,” effuses designer Samantha Liistro. While the hue is a frequent staple across her interiors and personal wardrobe, it’s also the color of chamaecyparis trees that ring the Westport, Connecticut, garden, that her father, Paul T. Liistro, has lovingly cultivated over the past 35 years.

A healthcare executive, sailor and self-taught landscape designer, Paul has poured his insatiable curiosity for the natural world into this most resplendent of gardens. Reaching this point, he admits, has been a journey. “When we first purchased the property, I felt a bit like Huckleberry Finn at the end of the book, when he says he’s giving up on civilization and heading out into the territory,” says Paul. Upon surveying the land—a virgin expanse of grass, forest and stream—from a second story window he began sketching, and, like a tree taking root, the garden has since revealed itself in chapters.

The property’s pink rose garden (replete with a plumbed stone retaining wall and dryad fountain) was inspired by the Elizabeth Park Conservancy in Hartford, Connecticut, snow-white Magnolia trees nod to Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue and a tidy pea gravel pavilion dotted with ornamental fountains and a petite table for two perpetuates a treasured father-daughter memory. “I lived in Paris, near the Luxembourg Gardens, while studying abroad at Parsons,” shares Samantha. When Paul came to visit at the end of the semester, she knew just where to take him. “We were so inspired by all the lovely pools and places to sit, so on the flight home, we decided to create our own version. He took out his notebook and started sketching.”

Samantha fondly dubs her childhood garden “my favorite place in the world,” and credits her father’s planting palette for much of her own nature-informed approach to color and pattern. Most recently, Paul and his wife Brenda hired their daughter to design a new first-floor addition housing an expansive primary bedroom suite. Here, through an enormous picture window, Samantha has framed her father’s garden like a painting.

Photography by Tim Lenz