Take a stroll around landscaper Keith Buesing’s lush property nestled into the foothills of the Gunks in Gardiner, and at first you almost miss the garden embellishments that soulfully blend into the natural setting. The landscape is outlined with flourishing plantings, stone and mossy paths, whimsical sculptures, and even a driftwood climbing structure. Buesing considers his property the “lab” where he “transforms the land and permeates ideas.”
Buesing is part landscaper, part environmental artist, and part visionary. Landscaping is not only in Buesing’s soul; it’s in his DNA. His parents owned a nursery for 40 years in Rockland County. It’s no surprise Buesing approaches landscape design like an artist. “I think of the work I do as sculpting with plants.” This special relationship between Buesing and the land he “sculpts” is created from the contours and curves of the land, and artifacts he finds—“leftover indigenous stuff.”
Buesing is locally known for his large garden topiary installations. “I like to create things that you can interact with.” Topiary is the horticultural art of training perennial plants by clipping and pruning them into a living sculpture. The first topiaries were said to have been in Roman gardens more than 2,000 years ago. Topiaries can be both fancifully witty and classically formal.
After experiencing Buesing’s outdoor home environment, we went down the road to the Gardiner Library and Ireland Corners to view examples of his community installations. I asked Buesing about his design process: “With topiary, most clients leave the idea up to me. One thing leads to another as the shape evolves. I use evergreen plants—native boxwood and juniper ground cover to arrange the three-dimensional shapes. The maintenance required is mostly watering and trimming.”
Much to the delight of the residents of Gardiner, perched on the lawn of the Gardiner Library lies a green topiary lizard reading a stone book. The book, in which Buesing inscribed the words Love, Lizard, Life, Lapidary, is sure to raise the spirits of inspired book lovers young and old.
It certainly is delightfully unexpected to encounter a 25-foot-long “Stegodile” at the intersection known as Ireland Corners—Routes 208 and 44/55 in the town of Gardiner. Miraculously, Buesing transformed a mundane state highway intersection into anything but ordinary. Buesing says the topiary creature that graces the crossroads began as a crocodile that has taken on the characteristics of a Stegosaurus. This 10-year-old topiary installation was transported from Buesing’s family nursery. He likens the contrasting colors and tactile feel of topiary to a stuffed animal. “I love rubbing my hands over it.”
It was obvious to me that in his rustic retreat, the seemingly laid-back Buesing favors a relaxed environment. When I asked him what he was currently working on, I expected a description of a dense, mossy mountainside hide-away garden. Instead, Buesing is working on a formal English garden. Since Buesing is such a versatile landscaper, I have no doubt that meticulously edged hedges, spiral topiary, and dramatic walled gardens would be totally within his realm.
With the natural landscape as his canvas, the multitalented Keith Buesing truly inspires garden possibilities.
Opening receptions for Nicole Cherubini and Remy Jungerman, Oct. 8 at 2 PM in the gallery; Kahn+Selesnick update Freya Powell's zeotrope with new imagery; Steam Canoe installation is underway, and Ward Shelly + Alex Schweder take a final spin in ReActor!