Annuals to the Rescue


forgotFOR SOME CRAZY REASON, this Roy Lichtenstein parody (once a popular T- shirt), right, popped into my head the other evening when I saw the vivid bed of annuals at LongHouse Reserve, Jack Lenor Larsen’s extraordinary East Hampton sculpture garden.

The explosion of color, designed by Dennis Schrader, owner of a North Fork nursery and co-author of Hot Plants for Cool Climates: Gardening with Tropical Plants in Temperate Zones (Timber Press), is made up entirely of plants that were seeds a few short months ago (or tubers in the case of the banana-leaf-like cannas), and will be compost (or dug up and stored away) by November.

So if right about now you’re saying, “I can’t believe I forgot to plant a garden,” take heart. You can have a midsummer floral fantasia with cannas, coleus, verbena, and other hot-colored annuals in three months — by next July, anyway, provided you start in April. In fact, with annuals on sale now, you can have one instantaneously.



I also enjoyed the creative entries in LongHouse’s yearly container competition, below.


Fish-shaped containers set in shells and blue glass…


A mannequin as planter…


Simple ferns and ivy in a hollowed-out tree stump…


An abundance of succulents crammed into one pot.

Leap of Gardening Faith: Pruning Rhododendrons


GARDENING REQUIRES many leaps of faith, especially when you’re learning on the fly as I am (but then again, I suspect that’s what most gardeners do throughout their lives). This morning I took a giant leap, with Dong’s help. He arrived at 8AM, chain saw in hand. I was still in my pajamas, but no matter. This is the country. I went outside.

He was here to radically prune five overgrown rhododendrons that have towered over my East Hampton cottage since I bought it in May of ’09. Those rhodies bloom magnificently purple in mid-May, but 20 feet up, way over the roofline. I never really got to enjoy the flowers.

And though they sheltered the house and I enjoyed the sense of seclusion they provided, two close friends who are professional garden designers agreed they ought to be hacked back, both for appearance sake and the health of the shrubs. So when Mary-Liz visited two weeks ago, she got out her pink marking tape and, at my request, thoughtfully tied ribbons around each branch just where they should be cut. I could never have made those decisions myself.

Finally, this morning, Dong arrived to do the job. I held my breath. He buzzed his way through the five rhodies (Mary-Liz had suggested possibly leaving one large near the house, but when the other four were down, I thought it better to make them all uniform.) The operation was over before 9.


Suddenly the area feels bare. The side of the house is exposed in all its discolored cedar shingle glory. I looked at some nearby shade plants, like the pulmonaria under the magnolia, and thought, it’s not gonna be happy. Other things, however, probably will be very happy for the extra sun.

Am I happy? I’m afraid to go out and look again. But as Dong said, “Don’t worry. Next year it will all fill in.” Let us pray.

Look Book: White Wood Floors


GET READY to be blinded by the white…

IMG_0410The photos in this post were among my inspirations in deciding to give my own worn tongue-in-groove floors, left, a whitewash.

They may look OK here, but trust me, they’re bad in spots, and I just couldn’t get excited about the idea of sanding and refinishing them when I can go all screaming white.

You’ll forgive me if I don’t properly credit the rest of the photos, lifted from other websites. Most of those sites didn’t give proper credit, so I don’t know the original sources. I did note that many of them seem to be of homes in London, though white-painted wood floors are very popular here in the Hamptons, too.


I’ve rented out my cottage for the last two weeks of August, and no sooner do I anticipate some extra income, I make plans to spend it.


Of the three main items remaining on my wish list (painting the floors, a new kitchen counter, and glassing in the screened porch to create a year-round room with fireplace), the last is too major to contemplate immediately, and of the first two, it’s the floors that bother me most.


So next Monday, a painter is coming to move all my furniture out to the back deck (weather permitting) or onto the screened porch (weather not), sand the sad floors down, and give them two coats of white paint for that clean, beachy look I covet.


To see more pictures of white floors, go here, here, and here.

my scandinavian retreat wood bed

I’m lovin’ it already. What do you think?

’40s Cottages in Pine Neck


TODAY MY SISTER AND I wandered the streets of Pine Neck, a bayfront community about three miles west of Sag Harbor, on the north shore of Long Island’s South Fork.


It should by rights be called Oak Neck for the towering trees that define the neighborhood; it’s not all that piney, but someone must have thought Pine Neck sounded better.


The area’s cottages, each unique, seem to be mostly of 1940s vintage.


With few signs of encroaching development, it looks more or less as it did in the days before rock’n’roll.


We looked last night at some real-estate listings, which confirmed that one thing has changed since the Andrews Sisters ruled the air waves: the prices. The active listings seem to start at about 400K for the smaller, non-waterfront cottages and ascend from there.



The unusually large (for the area) waterfront property in the two pictures above sold last year for $1.1million.

Most of the houses are on small lots (about one-tenth of an acre), neither derelict nor overly spiffed up. The house below is an exception.


I’m guessing many of them are still owned by the families that first bought or built them.


There are few visible ‘For Sale’ signs. The houses below are not necessarily on the market; they’re the ones that caught my eye as we rambled, for one reason or another.







The sandy beach on Noyac Bay, below, is the reason a community of summer cottages sprung up in this particular spot. None of the houses are more than a few minutes’ walk away.


Here are a few of the coveted bayfront cottages:




And some of the local denizens:


This is my sister’s adorable pea-green rental, below, recently renovated and kitted out with mid-20th century furniture.


Shelter Island Cottage Rental thru Labor Day $7K



Dear friends of mine are renting out their cottage on Shelter Island, the idyllic island-that-time-forgot, tucked between the North and South Forks of Long Island, N.Y.


It’s peaceful and private, with a double-height living room and huge screened porch, on a large lot full of mature shade trees. The house is very near Wades Beach (pleasantest on the island, if you ask me), the Mashomack Nature Preserve, the acclaimed Vine Street Cafe, Marika’s Antiques (always fun to look around), and South Ferry. (Be in Sag Harbor in 10 minutes!)


In fact, if you’ve got a book to write, or just like fall and winter in the country, the 3BR cottage is also available year-round; $2,000/month, negotiable.

For all the details, contact