Garden Inspiration: Late-Season Lushness in Amagansett

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HERE, TO MANY, IS WHAT THE HAMPTONS is really about — not the ocean beaches but the native oak woods and the gardening that is possible within them, with the help of a sturdy deer fence.

This green and lovely 1-1/3-acre spread belongs to Paula Diamond, a self-taught gardener who learned much of what she knows working at The Bayberry, a nursery in Amagansett. To my surprise, Paula only started gardening here in earnest in the late ’90s, which goes to show how much can be accomplished in a mere decade-and-a-half.

Paula’s garden, around a classic cedar-shingled cottage, is very much a shade garden, cool and romantic. I can imagine how spectacular it is in spring, when hundreds of rhododendrons and white irises around the pool are in bloom, but even in early September, it is lush and inviting.

The free-form pool was conceived as a water feature as much as a swimming hole. Paula tells how “the plan” presented by the pool company consisted of a workman with a can of spray paint, who outlined the pool’s shape in one big sweep, and that’s how it remained.

Come along and have a look…

IMG_3927 All the hardscaping choices are simple and unpretentious, including pea gravel and river stones used for steps near the house, and bluestone in the pool area. Mulch paths, lined with branches and logs, wend through the woods at the rear of the long, narrow property.

One of two gates, below, leading to the backyard. The fragrant flowering shrub behind is clerodendron trichotomum fargesii. IMG_3928

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Above, ligularia in several varieties can be counted on for late-season color.

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Rear of the house, above

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The gunite pool, designed and installed by Rockwater, is surrounded by boulders and has a gray-toned interior.

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Carex Morrowii ‘Ice Dance’ used as a groundcover, above.

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Above, an existing six-foot stockade fence was topped with a couple feet of wire as reinforcement against hungry deer. (This is very interesting to me, as my property is surrounded by similar fencing. I especially love how the plantings have come to pretty much obscure it.)

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Views back toward the house, above, showing shade perennials (hostas, ferns, hakonechloa) as well as hydrangeas and Japanese maple.

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Much of the property remains wooded, with shrubs and perennials profusely planted in semi-cleared areas.

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A fiberglass cow in a bed of liriope surveys the back of the property.

My Neighbors’ Gardens

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THOU SHALT NOT COVET THY NEIGHBORS’ GARDENS, but that’s so very hard to do (or not to do)  during the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days. One of the great things about the Open Days program — besides catering to the garden voyeur in all of us — is that you gain access to the yards of people who live nearby and deal with the same climate and soil conditions you do, which can be instructive as well as envy-inducing.

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Yesterday I visited two mature, artfully designed gardens here in Springs (East Hampton), N.Y., and came away with an inspiring glimpse of what can be created with time, effort, knowledge, a bit of money, a whole lot of work, and — this is crucial — a deer fence.

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The first, around a contemporary house set way back along a dirt road off Old Stone Highway, was the Previti/Gumpel garden, owned by a pair of architects and 18 years in the making.

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Conceived as a series of outdoor rooms, with a formal ‘games lawn’ and many different seating and activity areas, there are both shade- and sun-loving plantings, and a woodland walk.

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Right now, tall plume poppies, which I’d never heard of, and gooseneck loosestrife are in bloom, along with multi-colored day lilies and the Hamptons’ favorite floral deer candy, hydrangea.

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Then I moved on to the half-acre, 30-year-old Friend/Hellerman garden, designed and owned by Susan Friend, a professional landscape designer, and her husband Hal.

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There is not a square inch of grass. Instead, gravel and carefully placed boulders convey the feeling of a Japanese dry garden, with conifers, rhododendron, ferns, bamboo, and a stone lantern and bridge.

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The garden is predominantly evergreen, filled with life even in winter. Flowers progress from Korean azaleas in spring through various varieties of andromeda, rhodies, peonies, and Siberian and Japanese iris. The vine-enclosed outdoor shower, below, is a highlight.

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Neither property is more than an acre — which, the more I garden, the more I realize is plenty to be getting on with.

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