Edmund Hollander's Dream Hamptons Gardens
by jamee gregory
Walking through Southampton’s estate section, I often pass properties manicured by Edmund Hollander Design. His work is frequently featured in prominent garden tours, and several friends have sought the firm’s counsel. Now Hollander’s work is the centerpiece of a new book by Philip Langdon, The Private Oasis: The Landscape Architecture of Edmund Hollander Design (Grayson, $50).
Upon meeting the veteran landscape architect, I was surprised to discover that we both studied at The New York Botanical Garden and Vassar College, where his senior project entailed creating a map of all the college’s trees; the project led to the campus being designated an arboretum. After receiving a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, his passion for plants grew into a deeper knowledge of ecology and design.
Respecting form and function, Hollander’s plans stem from three components: the site, the home, and the client. Hollander spends time on the process, sketching and designing, showing pictures to clients, asking them to bring images of things they like as the vision takes shape. “Our firm is not known for one style, but for our ability to tailor plans to suit a client’s needs,” says Hollander who has completed more than 150 landscapes in the Hamptons. “We do clipped and tailored, lush and flowered, never approaching a project with preconceived plans, believing a landscape should grow from the inside of the home outward, blurring distinctions between landscape and architecture.”
The Private Oasis shares a diverse array of solutions, helping a novice gardener benefit from the sophisticated creations of an accomplished landscape designer. Small and large properties offer myriad responses to questions that could be posed for any property. But instead of grouping chapters around specific projects and compromising the security of his clients, he groups pictures according to themes, a gift to readers tackling a specific problem. “You enter a property from the street, not the front door,” says Hollander. “What leads the visitor from the road inside?”
The first section, devoted to the entry sequence, is particularly helpful, showing many ways for creating drama and directing visitors. Should there be a surprise, a hidden turn, a romantic allée of trees, or a service entrance? Next Hollander addressed seating and gathering. “How does the family assemble?” asks the landscaper, who often works with parents, kids, and grandparents when designing a property. “Will there be lunch every day for 16? Are there waiters and cooks, or will you be barbecuing yourself? Do you need a shady arbor for lunch or a large terrace for cocktail parties? All these questions demand clarity.”
Transitions follow, plotting entrances and exits, suggesting varied materials before, last but not least, approaching pools and tennis courts. “Building a home and planning its landscape is the reward of a successful life,” says Hollander. “It’s time consuming and expensive, but it should still be a pleasure.”
Hollander and his partner, Maryanne Connelly, believe a home must connect to nature and that a designer must consider the natural features of a property, including its topography, soil, and local conditions, as well as the location’s history. Attention must also be paid to how the property will be used and what seasons will be spent in the home. “People trust us with the single most important thing: their home, the place where their children grow up,” says Hollander, who grew up in Manhattan, had a summer home in Quogue, and now lives in Sag Harbor with his wife and daughter. “We can make people’s lives better. Every family has a different way of living, and we take the time to explore that dynamic. Our best projects are collaborative.”
Edmund D. Hollander Landscape Architect Design, 200 Park Ave. S., NYC, 212-473-0620.
The Private Oasis is available now in bookstores throughout the Hamptons.
photography by charles mayer