A new book written and photographed by Willowbend’s head gardener takes readers on a tour through the Mashpee country club’s colorful vistas, lush gardens, hidden waterfalls and cranberry bogs.By Lisa Leigh Connors | Photography by Ari Maravel
Pictured above: An antique-red pump house, natural stone walls and a rock waterfall is located off the green on Bay 2 at Willowbend in Mashpee.
When Willowbend owner David Southworth planted the seed for a book about the gardens at his Mashpee country club more than two years ago, head gardener Ari Maravel was thrilled and overjoyed. As a former journalist for The New York Times and Baltimore’s The Evening Sun, Maravel always thought, “Maybe one day, I will have a book down the line.”
“The Gardens of Willowbend: Beauty, Elegance, Serenity and Joy,” takes readers on a tour of the country club’s 600-plus acres of lush vistas, willow trees, a hidden waterfall, cranberry bogs, antique red barns and roses bred by English rosarian David Austin. While working on the book, Maravel took more than 2,000 photos throughout the seasons—including swans, wild turkeys and hawks—to capture the area’s visitors and changing colors.
The self-taught gardener Maravel and his wife, Gailanne, moved from Ridgewood, New Jersey, to Sandwich in 1998. After “doing nothing” for two years, Maravel grew restless and answered a local newspaper ad that changed his life. It simply said, “Gardner Wanted.” No location was listed. At Willowbend, he was initially hired to manage the beds on the golf course. “But they didn’t tell us we would have to rake sand traps in the morning!” says Maravel, with a burst of laughter. “But I thought it was perfect because it was great exercise.”
After he was promoted to head gardener eight years ago, Maravel made adjustments to save time and money. He turned his attention to shrubs, Japanese maple trees and perennials that bloom for four to five weeks instead of just two (he makes one exception for “Queen of the Prairie,” which features bright pink flowers located in a large, round bed on Willowbend Drive). Early in his career, he bought peat moss to enrich the Cape’s sandy soil, but now relies on the golf course’s compost pile of grass clippings and leaves. He also added more urns to the property—there are now 170—to brighten corners that don’t get much sun. They can be seen outside entrances to the clubhouse, pool, fitness center, Pro Shop and patios.
Maravel, who keeps shelves of gardening books at home and reads countless magazines, including two from the U.K., keeps busy as head gardener eight months of the year. As the season kicks into high gear soon, the 4,000 peony-shaped tulips he planted in the fall will start to bloom on May 1. “One of the things you want to convey is joy because people come here to have fun with golf, weddings and parties. That was my approach to the book and the gardening— elegance, a lot of color, exuberance, all of which make it a special place apart from any golf or country club.”
A garden tour and tea party to benefit the Mashpee Public Library will be held 2-5 p.m. on June 28 at Willowbend Country Club, 100 Willowbend Drive, Mashpee. For more information, contact Ginny Farwell, president of the volunteers for the library, at 508-539-0939.