Hidden Paradises Revealed at Parrish Art Museum’s Garden Tour
by jamee gregory
Ever wonder what makes a great Hamptons gardener? Curiosity, for one; visits to local gardens to educate one’s eye and to see plants that thrive in our zone for another; also, regular attendance at the Parrish Art Museum’s annual Landscape Pleasures garden tour, which includes lectures by the foremost landscape designers, artists, and authors, as well as self-guided tours through unique private gardens, which demonstrates what works here in the Hamptons and what definitely does not.
This year’s program highlighted gardens that are streamlined and sensitive to existing nature. Hamptons-based landscape designer Edwina von Gal discussed her love of plants and desire to teach intelligent land stewardship. Paula Hayes, an artist and landscaper known for her fanciful terrariums, focused on art and ecology. And Parrish Art Museum Director Terrie Sultan and Doug Reed of award-winning landscape architecture firm Reed Hilderbrand, discussed the grounds of the new Parrish Art Museum, which will respect the Hampton’s farmlands and hedgerows, thereby creating a park for the future. “Art and the landscape of the East End have been inextricably bound since the 1870s, when painters first came to the region,” says Sultan. “It’s only natural, then, that one of the Parrish’s key programs focuses on the joys of nature and the aesthetics of landscape design. Landscape Pleasures owes its success in part to the number of gardeners and garden lovers here, but also to the efforts of the Landscape Pleasures committee, which works so diligently to bring interesting speakers to the Parrish and to make private gardens available for the tour.”
The tour started at the enchanting garden of radio personality Joan Hamburg and her husband, Mort, who have lovingly cared for their two-acre property for 25 years. They first tried to replicate their former Vermont garden by planting more than 600 perennials, only to see them washed away by a flooding Sagaponack Pond and rising winds. Over the years, with the help of Unlimited Earth Care’s Frederico Azevedo, they let the terrain take charge. “The land tells us what to do,” says Joan. “Respect where you are, and you will be paid back. Our garden blooms from March through November with perennials, like mallows and iris, that like ‘wet feet.’ We wanted the garden to look as if it had always been here, working around existing specimen trees and growing hardy Bonica roses transported from a neighboring farm.”
The Hamburg property includes waterfront areas, woodland, and farm fields, which Azevedo says he tried to unify through his landscaping vision. “There was some existing vegetation and trees, and it made the lot look very rectangular,” he says. “We made more enclosures so you would have to pass over a bridge to go to the moss garden or under a canopy of trees to the waterfront section. From the moss garden you can see the rose garden and the patio; the cutting garden gives views of water. All the views are framed by a garden. We also added terraces that offer aerial views of the garden.”
As a resident of The Springs, von Gal knows Long Island foliage well; she created the calming and magical garden of Liz and Gus Oliver, which was the next stop on the tour. Ten acres of artful green, with winding grass paths and meadow fields that bend in the wind, create an ecologically and mathematically pleasing zone that seems a natural part of the farmlands, but it is actually a precise and intellectual conceit, perfectly manicured to look as if nature made it. Soothing vistas line up with the large glass windows of the house and a man-made pond, benches, a few majestic trees, and lilac, viburnum, and spirea add interest, causing the eyes to pause as you take in a vast sea of undulating green. “That garden remains, after many years, one of my favorites that I have done,” von Gal says of the Oliver oasis. “The idea was to make it feel as if most of it was already there and the house was just settled into some existing trees. However, from inside, the trees each frame a view. It is a classic Hamptons potato field location, with a remnant hedgerow through the middle, but enhanced by the adjacent wetlands, which provide a bit of topography, the opportunity for a pond that fits, and a spectacular fall display.”
The only public stop on the tour, Bridge Gardens, comprises five acres on Mitchell Lane in Bridgehampton. Operated by the Peconic Land Trust, these cultivated acres are breathtakingly beautiful, informative, and open. Lectures such as this month’s presentations by Connie Gillies and Alice Weiser (August 7) and Silvia Lehrer (August 17) are offered and the public is welcomed. This year-round resource is a lovely way to learn the fundamentals. Starting this month, you have every reason to visit as Bridge Gardens plays host to the Fridays at Six music series.
The next green getaway, The Sandtrap, Ruth and Theodore Baum’s oceanfront Southampton estate, features a fabulous expanse of dune on one side and a novel mixture of plant materials on the other. Here, landscape architect Mario Nievera was challenged by the weedy site, yet the expansive view and contemporary nature of the home didn’t call for a large formal garden or manicured lawn. “The Baums moved large sculptures into the garden,” said Nievera. “Their size, beside bay views, inspired me to think of waves and large brushstrokes of plants, complementing the dramatic scale of the site. Blue oat grass contrasts with orange sculpture, masses of Leland cypress against rust sculpture, Winterberry ilex shaped like masses of cotton balls; silvery-leafed buddleia tall maiden grass and vitex blow in the wind.”
Alexandra Alger and Daniel Chung’s three-acre property in Georgica, the final stop on the tour, was designed by Eric Groft, principal at Oehme, van Sweden & Associates in Washington, DC; the landscape contains native plants to sustain and enhance nature. The mass plantings make strong statements and, necessary in our area, are seemingly deer-resistant and drought-proof. Ferns, moss, and grass, are punctuated with stands of dogwood and andromedas. Plantings surround an angular pool, terraced stairs, and an outdoor dining area. This “New American Garden” style, simply accented with bold touches like acanthus at the end of the pool and a bed of hellebores, leads to meandering paths, terraced stairs, and cryptomerias that define the property. Emphasized Groft, the same principals—“the intelligent use of positive and negative space, of form and scale, of light and shadow, of rough and smooth textures”—apply in a 10-foot terrace or even a Hamptons 10-acre parcel.
photography by josh lehrer