Sleepy Cat Farm
August 4, 2021
When Fred Landman let his imagination run wild, his Greenwich landscape grew into something sublime.
Text by Tovah Martin Photography by Rob Cardillo
Fred Landman wants to captivate all of your senses. At his thirteen-and-a-half-acre Sleepy Cat Farm in Greenwich, you wander through corridors of clipped hedges, zigzags of raised walkways, glades chock-full of irises, and rivers of camassias, with classical statues tucked just where you might want to gaze upon an Atlas. Muffled in fronds and flowers at every bend, Sleepy Cat Farm is orchestrated for engagement. “To do something on this scale, you must have a passion,” says Landman, a retired corporate CEO who sits on the board of directors for The Garden Conservancy.
The outdoor narrative began after Landman finished a revamp with architect Charles Hilton of the 1942 Georgian revival he had purchased in 1994. It occurred to Landman that he might extend the refresh to the outdoors; the landscape suddenly felt lacking in comparison to Hilton’s architectural prowess. That’s when Landman sought out Charles Stick, a Charlottesville, Virginia-based landscape architect with a penchant for dramatic classical design.
Outdoor architecture began sedately enough with a parterre beyond the house. But before long, Landman had decided that the surrounding woods could be absorbed into the landscape, and Stick was masterminding rambles with a little grotto here and an ode to Mercury there.
Well-traveled and well-read, Landman divided the property between Eastern and Western principles of design and symbolism. Classical archways half-hidden in shrubbery, dells teaming in blossoms, and massive mythological characters all populate the Western section. In the Eastern area, pathways take you on a Spirit Walk, and vistas reveal a Chinese-style pavilion wading in lotus flowers.
In the vegetable garden, Landman’s wife, former Chez Panisse chef Seen Lippert,
harvests from raised beds, vine arbors, and citrus trees. Alan Gorkin, Sleepy Cat Farm’s longtime head gardener, meticulously oversees all of the maintenance.
As for the farm’s whimsical name, it was inspired by a cat weather vane perched atop a garden tower, but it’s also an homage to Landman and Lippert’s mutual love of cats: a dozen felines, many rescued from the local animal shelter, can be found loafing around the property.
Landman shares his enchanting world during The Garden Conservancy’s Open Days and in The Monacelli Press’s Sleepy Cat Farm: A Gardener’s Journey, due out in October.