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MY WHIRLWIND TRIP TO PALM SPRINGS on assignment for Endless Vacation magazine took place the week before last, though it seems forever ago. I’ve been bouncing around since — from Long Island, where I packed up two-thirds of my furnishings and turned my cottage in Springs over to renters for at least the next year (and am inching forward on the purchase of another property), and my apartment in Brooklyn, where I’m coming to terms again with life in two rooms. The warm sun and crystalline air of southern Cali are a distant memory, but I feel compelled to post more photos before I resume blogging about life on the East Coast.
I certainly enjoyed waking up each morning to the view, above, from the Hideaway, a low-key inn in a 1947 compound formerly known as the Town & Desert Hotel
You see, professional travel journalist here left an important gold mesh bag on her dining table when she departed at 5AM for LaGuardia Airport [slaps self upside the head]. In the bag: my camera battery and charger and the cord that enables me to download photos to my laptop. Once again, it was iPhone to the rescue; at least I was able to do one blog post from there, though the photos hardly did the place justice. I did have the camera itself with me, and I used it, sparingly, to the full extent of its battery power, capturing some of Palm Springs’ exceptional mid-20th-century architecture and the vintage-inspired hotels and design shops that have blossomed around them.
Herewith, a few more images from the trip.
Below, houses in the Las Palmas neighborhood by the enormously influential developer Robert Alexander.
Below, three of seven surviving all-steel houses by architect Donald Wexler, c. 1962
Below, Hedge, a shop in nearby Cathedral City whose owners can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned. Their taste in mid-century art and design is impeccable.
A grouping of Danish pottery at JPDenmark, below, which shares strip-mall space with Hedge and several multi-dealer vintage modern shops
At the trendy Ace Hotel, below, scooters at the ready
Below, Norma’s, a popular brunch spot at the Parker and public spaces decorated by the inimitable Jonathan Adler
THIS UNTOUCHED TRADITIONAL dates from when Montauk Highway was already a main thoroughfare, yes, but what that meant was a dirt road with horses and carts clopping along — not the never-ending stream of car and truck traffic that exists today.
Pity, because the house and property are just what I’d want in a different spot: a late 19th century cedar-shingled 4BR, with lots of original detail inside, on almost an acre, and taxes under $2,000/year.
There are lots of good things about it. The long gravel drive and the backyard actually have a secluded feeling, almost a secret-garden feeling. The house is set back a fair distance from the busy road, and perched on a hill. There’s no reason why the front yard couldn’t be enclosed with a fence and high hedge.
Needs TLC, as the ads put it, but that’s far better, in my book, than paying the price for a slick modern renovation that has de-charmed the place entirely.
To see more pics of the interior, for more info or an appointment to see, contact Dennis Avedon at Corcoran, 516/398-6751, firstname.lastname@example.org
IT’S PROBABLY BECAUSE I WAS SO THOROUGHLY WOWED by a recent visit to LongHouse Reserve, a 16-acre masterpiece of landscape design, that Bridge Gardens in Bridgehampton, N.Y., a 22-year-old, five-acre garden designed by Jim Kilpatric and Harry Neyens and recently donated to the Peconic Land Trust, struck me as a bit underwhelming.
The layout seems to break one of the most hallowed rules of garden design, which is that the whole thing should not be revealed all at once. At Bridge Gardens, once you’re through an impressive perimeter hedge of European beech, above, the majority of the property is right there before you: a vast stretch of lawn with a lavender parterre and a rose rondel, top, with some 800 species of antique and modern roses (great if you’re a rose aficionado — I’m not). That’s the Outer Garden, which also includes a bank of lilacs in fragrant bloom and a fun collection of yew topiaries, below.
The Inner Garden, around a post-modern building that is the gardener’s residence and an education center, was more interesting to me, particularly a meticulous multi-colored knot garden, below, mulched with broken clam shells. There’s a reflecting pool, a ‘bamboo room,’ and a woodland garden area to explore.
It took my friend Debre and me less than an hour to explore it all, and we were dilly-dallying.
Bridge Gardens would be a wonderful venue for a wedding or big party (it’s available for hire), with all that open space, and serious plantspeople will find much to fascinate them, but as a work of inspiring landscape design, it didn’t knock this jaded garden-tourist out.
IMPATIENT PEOPLE (like myself) should not try to landscape on a budget. Last Friday, hoping to create a hedge in an afternoon, I drove an hour west to Stables, a garden center in East Moriches, L.I., where I bought eight ilex crenata ‘Steeds,’ a type of holly, for $15 apiece. I was hoping to use these shrubs to block the view of cars in my beautiful new parking court.
The shrubs looked much bigger in the garden center. But they were in containers, not balled and burlapped, so I could fit them all in the back of my Honda, lying on their sides, and plant them myself. As soon as I got them home and placed them where I wanted them, top, I could see this wasn’t going to work out quite the way I planned.
Nor was the planting as easy as I naively hoped (when will I ever learn?) It took me many hours over two days to dig the requisite trenches on either side of the gravel walkway from parking court to house — one about 7 feet long and the other 11 feet. Most of that area had been part of a driveway for 50 years, so the dirt was compacted, hard as concrete, and I had to go at it with a pickax. My neighbor from across the street came over to sympathize.
I dug generous sized holes, did what I could to improve the “soil” with bagged compost, and placed the eight 4′ tall plants where I wanted them. I had bought two more than the garden center recommended for the available linear footage; they said to space them 3′ apart to allow for growth, but no way was I going to see that much air in between. Then I filled in the holes, built up little watering ‘moats’ around each one, and topped it all off with wood chips to give it a finished look.
I was going by what Julie Moir Messervy, a garden writer, said in her book The Magic Land about how it’s done in Japan: “We planted shrubs so that their branches would just touch, allowing them to grow together as a mass, while pruning them at least once a year to keep them in check.”
A good weekend’s work. But oh dear, I can still see the car, above. These ilex (I’m becoming something of an ilex specialist, since they’re evergreen, deer-resistant, and cheap — I now have several varieties) will grow to 6 feet in height and widen, but will I still be around? That’s no way to think, I keep telling myself. Meanwhile, every little bit of green helps.
I’M BACK IN EAST HAMPTON, where daffodil foliage is pushing up, forsythia buds are swelling, and I’ve discovered a few amazing patches of snowdrops, below. I moved here just last May, so whatever blooms in March and April will be a revelation to me.
The snowdrops are thick on the ground in the woods at the back of my property; that may be because I took down a couple of big trees there last fall and they’re getting a lot of sunlight. Anyway, they’re welcome.
Raring to go with my gardening activities, but it’s a bit soon to plant up my vast patches of bare dirt. I contented myself yesterday with starting to edge my new gravel path with large stones found on the property, and quickly ran out of them. I’ll have to scavenge more, or even buy them at the local stoneyard. My edging doesn’t look like much so far, but picture it with chartreuse ladies mantel and purple catmint spilling over…
Then I took loppers to the Rose of Sharon hedge along my front deck railing (half-hacked, below). I went at it with gusto last night around 7PM, in the rays of the setting sun, removing a good four feet from the top. Now I have a bunch of hacked-off sticks, and if I’m not mistaken, Rose of Sharon is late to green up. Sometimes, in gardening as in renovation, it has to get worse before it gets better.
Lots of Spring-y emails coming. Gowanus Nursery is opening this weekend in Brooklyn, making me miss Brooklyn and its familiar, deer-free gardening challenges. Dianne B sent an email with 10 opinionated garden tips for spring, below in an annotated version. I love “get rid of something you hate,” but would go a step further: De-clutter your garden! Get rid of something you hate, and maybe don’t replace it!
Divide. Divide. Divide. Choose at least 3 plants in your garden that look lusty and are ready for division. You will be surprised how they take to it and it is the best way to multiply your garden. Cut a hosta in half, chop off the edges of an epimedium and move them elsewhere, dig up 1/3 of your Solomon’s seal and start a new colony, move some moss….your perennials will love you for it.
Order summer-blooming bulbs now to plant in May. Try calla lilies, Hymenocallis (spider lily) and Galtonia (summer hyacinths)… Dahlias too and leafy Caladiums and Colocasias….
If not already an avid pruner, take a pruning class or buy a pruning book – the best is Pruning and Training from the Royal Horticultural Society, Christopher Brickell. Its snip-by-snip illustrations and sophisticated choice of plants make it the best – $45 on Amazon. Pruning is better than yoga. [Wish I could think of it that way - I find pruning way more intimidating than yoga.]
Plant a Japanese maple. Preferably a weeper or one with a coral bark. They are especially great for marking special occasions and enhance every garden.
See at least one Botanical, Public or another’s wonderful Garden this spring. Nothing is better for inspiration. The Garden Conservancy, which is the nearest thing we have in America to England’s National Trust, has Open Days all across the country from early spring to deep autumn. Go to their website (www.gardenconservancy.org) and get the catalogue. Dianne’s own garden in East Hampton, NY will be Open on May 1st and September 11th. [I'll be there!]
Add a garden “accessory”. Don’t be too serious. It doesn’t have to be ‘sculpture’ or ‘furniture’…it can be anything that personalizes your garden. Just as casually as you wear your favorite scarf, adorn your garden with a bird cage maybe, a lovely gate that leads to nowhere, shells can be very nice and sundials, of course. [Not too many tchotchkes, please!]
Do not wait another season. Make replacing your least favorite plant, tree or shrub the first thing you do this season. Everyone makes mistakes in the garden but for some reason – one doesn’t want to admit defeat. Go to your favorite nursery and buy something new. Just rip out the thing you don’t like and get something you love. Do it.
Paint a tree. I had a Corylus contorta – the twisty-branched Harry Lauder’s walking stick tree – which died. It seemed so sad to get rid of all those artistic branches – so I spray painted it Cotswoldian blue.
Early spring is the exact time to cut back your grasses, Buddleia (butterfly bushes), summer blooming clematis, anything that is sprawling and looks dead…Early spring is the time before the new buds set.