Cottage Creek Gardens

In the spring of 2018, after successful business careers, Jennifer Giunta and Duncan Bell created Cottage Creek Gardens. They set up a plant stand on Route 9W in front of their half acre Valley Cottage property with a plan to sell plants they had grown from seed, as well as from plugs obtained from wholesale nurseries, and those they had propagated from cuttings and divisions. Several months later, after finding it difficult to secure their plants at night, the couple moved their offerings into their yard next to the house.

“When we started the nursery,” Jennifer says, “we decided to specialize in herbaceous perennials, shrubs, and seasonal seedlings that address the specific needs of home gardeners.” Here are the categories they focus on, and the plants Jennifer recommends for each:

Deer resistant plants – “I suggest plants that are fragrant such as herbs like lavender and sage, fuzzy ones like lamb’s ear, ones with a latex taste like fig trees, as well as woody grasses.”

Shade tolerant plants - “I like ferns, hellebores, sensitive fern, cardinal flower and goat’s beard.”

Pollinator-friendly plants – “Milkweed is a host to the monarch butterfly, then there are purple coneflower, Black-eyed Susans, and asters.”

Native plants – “Native plants are important because they help restore our ecosystem. I like spicebush, it’s a host to the swallowtail butterfly; dogwood, witch hazel, elderberry, and buttonbush.”

If you are interested in setting up a vegetable garden they are happy to help. “We have automatic watering systems for container gardens too,” said Jennifer who shares some tips for growing vegetables.

• Raise the beds for more control of the soil.

• Amend your soil with compost. Our compost pile includes leaves, pine needles, twigs, vegetable and fruit scraps, and shredded paper. We use the compost around all our garden beds.

• Install a watering system like a soaking hose as close to the ground as possible to avoid spreading fungus that overwinters in the soil. • Tomatoes, eggplant, corn, peppers, and okra need full sun while lettuce, arugula, herbs, and kale prefer some shade.

The enterprising couple has six grown children between them, and shares a love for gardening. Duncan earned a PhD in botany from the University of Michigan. An inveterate inventor, he worked at Pfizer for many years as head of its biomedical department creating robots, and now teaches area workshops in robotics. “He’s always inventing things,” Jennifer says, laughing. “At the moment he’s working on a watering system in our basement.”

Jennifer spent 25 years at the 92nd Street Y in charge of planning its impressive lecture series, and then two years as director of education for the Garden Conservancy in Cold Spring, New York. She now studies at the New York Botanical Garden’s School of Professional Horticulture. In 2016, she and Laurie Needell set up the Nyack Seed Exchange, a program that distributes free seeds through the Nyack Library on Saturdays during April and May. “We get seeds donated from a number of seed companies like Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Hudson Valley Seed, Johnny’s Select Seeds and High Mowing Organic Seeds as well as from gardeners in the area. We hope to learn what does well in our climate,” Jennifer says. “The more you know about gardening the more you realize what you don’t know. Gardening is never boring because you never run out of things to learn.”

Cottage Creek Gardens is located at 76 Lake Road in Valley Cottage and is open on weekends April through June, or by appointment. Call 845-353-0181 or email During the growing season, weekly specials are listed on their Facebook page; Cottage Creek Gardens.