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Carol Hamilton’s no muckraker, but she sure does love to dig up the dirt. Hamilton, the president of L’Oréal USA’s luxury products division, is an avid gardener who has created a veritable Eden at her weekend retreat in Litchfield, Conn.
This story first appeared in the August 12, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“I’m at my most content when I’m gardening,” says Hamilton, who, for the record, also likes to plant, prune and deadhead (gardening lingo for clearing away dead flowers.) She first developed her green thumb while summering on Cape Cod, but her passion bloomed after she and her husband bought the Marcel Breuer–designed Connecticut house 12 years ago. Hamilton herself drew and designed the two primary gardens—one, enclosed in the walls of a stone dairy barn, planted with perennial shrubs, the other a perennial flower garden planted against a backdrop of a stone wall. “The flower garden is an explosion of color, bright color, which makes me very happy,” she says, “while the shrub garden is much more peaceful and elegant, with white, lavender, blue and a lot of different hues of green.”
In addition to the act itself, it’s the nuance that Hamilton loves. Of the dahlia, for example, one of her favorite flowers, she says, “Every single flower that blooms is a work of art. It is magnificent—the color, the shape, the petals. You could just stare at it for an hour.” Other favorites include astilbes, rudbeckias (more commonly known as black-eyed Susans) and hydrangea, of which Hamilton grows four different varieties in the shrub garden, including double blues (which thrive in acidic soil, she notes) and a rare Japanese climbing variety.
“Gardening stimulates my creativity for work, because it’s so much about color and design. Another similarity is that it takes time to see the fruits of your labor,” she says. “Things grow and evolve and mature and every year they’re different and need to be mentored. There’s a lot of similarity between watching your garden grow and finding the right fit of plants, and work, where you’re trying to find the right fit for a technology or talent.” That being said, Hamilton also relishes the all-engrossing nature of her pastime, and likes nothing better than kicking back with a Cosmopolitan (pink to match the flowers, natch) and surveying the fruits of her labor. “It’s a total escape,” says Hamilton. “I completely forget about work.”