Fall Garden Report: With a Little Help from My Friends

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ALL GARDENING ALL THE TIME… that’s how I spent September and October at my beach-house property in Springs, N.Y., before cold nights forced me back to the big city.

I devoted last spring mostly to home improvements, while my garden ambitions lay fallow. I rented in July, and August was broken up by treks back and forth to Brooklyn, to oversee work at my townhouse in Cobble Hill (now rented, happily).

Besides which, though I had done a lot of clearing and planting by this third season at the house, I’m still somewhat lacking in the overall vision department.

But Labor Day weekend, I had a visit from a garden-designer friend who never fails to get me thinking, and things took a conceptual leap forward. I’d had this grand new deck built the summer before last, but hadn’t done much landscaping around it. Mary-Liz suggested that if I enlarged the existing beds, which began a few feet away from the deck, with an expanse of wood chips in between, and brought the beds right up to the edges, you’d feel, while lounging on the deck, as if you were sitting in the garden and not just looking at it.

While she was visiting, we swam in the bay and drank wine and, except for one trip to the dump for compost and some watering, didn’t lift a finger. It was Labor Day weekend, after all. As soon as her car pulled out of the driveway, though, I sprang into action. Over the next few days, I outlined new, expanded beds with some of the bricks from the three huge stacks I inherited when I bought the house two-and-a-half years ago. Then I had more compost delivered and piled in the newly defined areas, where there was only packed-down dirt.

This is all still very ad hoc; the bricks are mere suggestions, not yet dug into the soil, and they don’t quite end anywhere. Things may shift later, when more permanent paths are built. But it was enough to get me going, and on to my next challenge: what to plant in these new areas without spending a lot of money I didn’t have?

As it happened, my friend Stephanie, gardener extraordinaire, had recently sold her East Hampton house and could quite easily part with a couple of hydrangeas, some Japanese silver ferns, hostas and other random things that would never be missed from her intensively planted acre. I procured these donations in late September, along with some pieces of slate for stepping-stone paths.

Then, my dear next-door neighbors were planning to move, too, at the end of October. They had been renting for several years, had done a fair bit of planting, and didn’t want to leave their fabulous weeping spruce, an Alberta spruce, a couple of other evergreens, some irises, etc., to the new owners, nor could they take them along. So these were dug up and brought over the fence to my property, where I carefully chose spots for each.

Finally, around Columbus Day, I made a visit to Lynch’s Garden Center in Southampton, one of my favorite area nurseries — it’s medium-size, not overwhelming, and always has an interesting selection. Even at that late date, to my amazement, they had a table of robust-looking shade perennials, including Solomon’s seal, rodgersia, astelboides and ladies mantle, at the giveaway price of $3 apiece. I bought almost all they had.

I also moved things I’d planted in the outer reaches of my own half-acre to spots nearer the house and deck, where I can enjoy them on a daily basis and where they’ll get more watering. A crape myrtle that was unhappy in the woods is now in a prime sunny spot, and three leather-leafed mahonia that were lost back there now have pride of place in a V-shaped area where two paths meet.

Oh, and then there were several buckets of liriope from Brooklyn, a grasslike groundcover, that had been hastily dug up, thrown into plastic pots and left to sit all summer with an occasional spritz. It was a tangled mess, but alive, when I got to it in September, and I spent two days teasing it apart and painstakingly transplanting what I hope will one day be a glorious carpet on either side of a new path from my brick patio to the… what to call it… well, to the area that still needs conceptualizing.

Add to this my renewed commitment to watering, watering, watering, which I did diligently by hand for approximately an hour-and-a-half each day, with fancy new watering wands and nozzles to make the job easier, and I have every expectation of a great gardening season when I get back to my little Eden next spring.

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About cara

I blog for fun here at casaCARA, and write about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites. My recently published posts and articles can be found here: https://casacara.wordpress.com/recent-articles/
This entry was posted in GARDENS & GARDENING, HAMPTONS, LONG ISLAND and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Fall Garden Report: With a Little Help from My Friends

  1. Elissa says:

    Exquisite range of plants and textures, this is going to to be a lush, exotic landscape surrounding an unusual house. Can’t wait to see it next spring.

  2. Gorgeous, darling. Love this. Your journey – as a woman, as a gardener, as a gypsy, as a homeowner, as an artist, as an art critic- I am loving watching and reading and following along. Thank you!!!!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  3. literarybrooklyn says:

    I can’t get one large patch to look good, bloom some, and get to that place where it is almost maintenance free–after three years of trying! And here you are setting things up to do all of that in a matter of a couple of weeks. Grrrr. Lucky you’re such a nice person. And as others have noted, so very talented. I’ll continue to watch this take shape and see if there are any ideas I can steal…er, emulate.

  4. bjpeck2 says:

    Loved reading this post! So great to see what you’ve been up to and all the changes. You’re lucky to have such talented gardening friends and neighbors. (Me, I coulda hauled manure for you!) Let’s all hope for a mild winter. Can’t wait to see how this will look in the spring!

  5. bjpeck2 says:

    Wait, you put down compost? Even easier to haul!

  6. Julia Mack says:

    The concept of sitting IN the garden is so very inspiring. Greenery hugging the deck makes for a very inviting outdoor extension of your home.

  7. Looking good!!! Can’t wait till my next visit!!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Wow, Cara! This looks fabulous!

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