'A Peek Behind the Hedges' Reveals Pretty Outdoor Spaces
by jamee gregory
Can you imagine a nicer way to spend a Saturday than visiting gardens and saving animals all at once? Animal Rescue Fund (ARF) of the Hamptons held its annual self-guided “A Peek Behind the Hedges” tour on June 16 in Southampton. More than 300 people participated, and nearly $90,000 was raised to benefit Long Island’s leading animal welfare organization. Each year ARF provides more than 800 cats and dogs with food, veterinary care, spaying, neutering, and a safe, loving place to stay at its state-of-the-art Adoption Center. ARF also finds pets loving homes and offers community outreach and humane education.
In its 26th year, the tour featured five gardens, as well as a stop at the Rogers Memorial Library Rose Garden, a creation of the Southampton Rose Society and the area’s only public rose garden. Dedicated in 2003, the garden features 38 varieties of modern hybrid tea roses planted around its perimeters and carefully labeled for novice rosarians. Arbors are covered with six varieties of climbers, and David Austin shrub roses burst with fragrant blooms. English boxwood defines the beds, and more than 360 specimens offer brilliant color and shade.
Moving on to the private properties on the tour, the Stables and Poultry House Gardens of Claverack-Keewaydin of Perri Pelz and Eric Ruttenberg’s 1892 estate has been redesigned and updated. The owners began purchasing parcels of land in 1992, and they now own most of the property, except the main house and its immediate grounds, which originally included Victorian plantings designed by landscape design firm Olmsted Brothers, comprised of Frederick Law Olmsted’s sons, John and Frederick Jr.
To create a pastoral setting, landscape architect Jack deLashmet, along with Kim Lipkin of Avant Gardens, worked around the buildings from the original 30-acre site, designing six gardens, including cutting and vegetable gardens; a “grandmother’s garden,” an interior garden space; and a meadow. A pond garden takes advantage of existing trees, many relocated by arborist Ray Smith. A tennis court is surrounded by evergreens, lily pads dot the pond, and a bank of hydrangeas provides a flowering backdrop for the swimming pool. Large sweeping beds of perennials, filled with nepeta and lilies, sit beside meadows with mowed paths. Astilbe, alliums, and dusty miller vie for attention, while hosta and ferns line a shade garden.
Redcraft, the four-acre garden of Michael Raynes, some parts originally designed by Deborah Nevins, now has been rethought by landscape architect Perry Guillot. The greatest challenge was “editing the overgrowth of existing vegetation in a way that opened up the house on all four sides to the new garden experience,” he says. The solution was designing a new driveway and parking court to better suit the 19th-century house. The estate incorporates hedges of copper beech and yew that create a walled flower garden, and mounds of boxwood offer an evergreen anchor to the house’s four sides. While parklike areas of the property remain spare on blossoms, according to Guillot, “much was done to punch up the color variety in the new flower gardens.” Perhaps the most spectacular feature of the site, specimen shade trees “form the backdrop of the entire property,” Guillot notes, adding, “A century-old allée of chestnut trees along the east border is like no other in the village of Southampton.”
A visit to Four Fountains, the legendary 6.7-acre gardens of Maria and Bruce Bockmann, reveals creations in the flavor of mid-20th-century landscape and interior designer Russell Page, who is believed to have worked directly on the gardens, and Australian garden designer Paul Bangay. “The greatest challenge was marrying the original language, [likely] designed by the great Russell Page, with the new areas, [as] I wanted to honor the integrity he had created,” Bangay says. “History was respected by using plants that belonged to the original design scheme and continuing the formality of the garden into the new areas. Sight lines were maintained to allow flow from new to old areas of the garden.” A majestic circular front courtyard, defined with boxwood, welcomes visitors. A breathtaking cutting garden filled with blooms from May through October, a greenhouse, large wooded pond, reflecting pool, pear tree allée, and Italianate garden just off the pool terrace are united by an expansive lawn connecting to the house, which was built as a personal theater in the early 1930s. Specimen trees, rhododendrons, lavender, peonies, white birch, and roses gracefully occupy this elegantly designed garden.
Sand Trap offered a bold contrast to the other properties, as a newly built, modern, oceanfront home designed by Southampton architect Mark Matthews. In 2007 its owners imported outdoor sculptures from their New Jersey home and sought landscaping to complement the art and the stunning sea views. Palm Beach’s Mario Nievera was responsible for garden design and plant material that could withstand deer and wind. The vast size and bright colors of the sculptures by Tom Sachs and Joel Shapiro required Nievera to creatively select plant combinations that would work in harmony; he opted for blue, white, and purple blooms to complement the strong oranges of the main sculpture, and yellow and dark green florals to work with the rustcolored sculptures. “I saw the gardens as waves and patterns that flowed horizontally with the topography,” Nievera notes. “Sculptural evergreen pines provide vertical interest and give scale to the adjacent sculptures. Textures and colors are carefully arranged so that the waves are distinctive all summer long.” The meticulous pruning of the winterberry ilex make them appear as clouds and lend a sense of organization to the garden that is overseen by Herman Garcia.
The garden of Christy and Clifford Brechner is set on a narrow lot of about an acre on a village street that dates back 360 years. Joseph W. Tyree designed a lush yet linear garden emphasizing the property’s length. He creates a dramatic vista by working with a simple selection of plant materials, including Natchez crape myrtle, western arborvitae, privet, boxwood, white-blooming pee gee hydrangeas, and Mathilda gutges. Terracing unites the house with the pool house, proving that good lines and fine bones define a sophisticated garden.
These stunning properties featured on the tour are selected by the Garden Tour Committee—a group of knowledgeable landscape designers, gardeners, and garden fanciers—and the sites move to a different Hamptons town each year.
“Each village is blessed with an extraordinary diversity of gardens,” says Sara Davison, ARF executive director. “It is an extremely successful event because people love to see elaborate gardens. Many on the tour are serious gardeners, and some are just dreamers.”
photography by josh lehrer; courtesy of ARF