Christopher Spitzmiller’s Garden at Clove Brook Farm Boasts an Elegant Dovecote
Standing in New Orleans’s Jackson Square and feeding pigeons cracked corn is one of Christopher Spitzmiller’s favorite childhood memories. “They would fly up and perch on your hand,” recalls the acclaimed ceramic artist, designer of must-have custom-made lamps and tableware. “It was better than Disney World.”
At Clove Brook Farm, Spitzmiller’s home in New York’s Hudson Valley, that reminiscence has been reconstituted, thanks to the dovecote he recently constructed at the center of a parterre that brims, depending on the season, with tulips, sweet peas, and dahlias. It was modeled after the whimsical octagonal “martini houses” at P. Allen Smith’s Arkansas home—the garden guru is a longtime friend—and punctuates Spitzmiller’s landscape like an ornamental lantern.
Recycled elements, such as vintage windows found on the side of a country road and floorboards salvaged from an old barn on the property, give the dovecote a venerable attitude. “You have to integrate old things, so a building doesn’t look brand-new,” he notes. Crowning the hipped roof is another vintage find: a lead sculpture that depicts a pigeon taking flight. It’s usually joined by the real thing, namely some of Spitzmiller’s 16 Indian fantails, fancy strutters shimmering with purple, bronze, and turquoise-blue feathers.
The lowly rock pigeons of Jackson Square days they’re not. Martha Stewart directed Spitzmiller to Duke Riley, the artist behind Brooklyn’s 2016 “Fly by Night” extravaganza, where 2,000 trained pigeons, equipped with LED-lit leg bands, sparkled in the night sky. Riley supplied Spitzmiller with his first birds; others were sourced from a North Carolina breeder. “Indian fantails are the standard poodle of the pigeon world,” Spitzmiller explains, though he adds that those subcontinental exotics adored by maharajas have one attribute shared by all members of the Columbidae family. “Their cooing is heaven,” he exults. “It’s the best soundtrack ever.” christopherspitzmiller.com