LongHouse Redux


ONCE A SEASON at LongHouse Reserve, the 16-acre ornamental and sculpture garden in East Hampton, N.Y., masterminded by textile designer/scholar/collector Jack Lenor Larsen, is not enough. (That’s Larsen’s Shinto temple-inspired house, above).

I visited LongHouse for the first time last May, when azaleas and roses were among the main attractions. I returned a couple of weeks ago, and found it less riotously colorful, perhaps, but still awe-inspiring. Late summer/early fall is the time to appreciate late-blooming hydrangeas, ornamental grasses in their prime, elephant ears and annual vines at maximum size and spread.




Below, how the dry Mediterranean garden looks in late August. I love that LongHouse “allows” some of the lambs-ear-like plants I’ve been thinking of as weeds in these beds; it’s making me reconsider pulling them out where they’ve colonized a sunny section of my lawn.


Here’s one of the monumental sculptures I neglected to photograph back in May. “Summer Bridge,” below, a 1983 work by Claus Bury, was created when the German artist was just 19 years old.


Another of the many takeaways from LongHouse: lots of ideas for paving and paths, including slate pieces set in gravel, below, done so beautifully here.


You have until October 9, when LongHouse closes for the season, to visit and be wowed. Hours are short: Wednesdays and Sundays only from 2-5PM. Admission is $10. So well worth it.

GARDEN VOYEUR: The Barefoot Contessa’s Garden


TAKE A PEEK behind the massive privet hedge at the Barefoot Contessa’s East Hampton garden. I did that on Wednesday. It was open to the public for a few hours as part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days program, to benefit the organization’s work in preserving exceptional private gardens (usually of people who have died) that would otherwise be lost.

I generally find these Open Days fairly intimate affairs. Rarely crowded, they often feature eccentric and highly original gardens. Many times the gardeners are older women who have earned their stooped backs, cracked hands, and vast horticultural knowledge by dint of years of effort. Usually the homeowner/gardener is present to greet visitors and answer questions.


This garden is different. It’s the home of Ina Garten, the celebrity cookbook author and TV personality also known as the Barefoot Contessa. I’ve never seen the show or read her books, or even tasted her famous brownies, but I did enough research to discover that she was born in Brooklyn [applause] and is self-made, having worked up from modest beginnings to this impressive, sprawling estate. Her husband Jeffrey is the former dean of the Yale school of management.


It is a striking example of what can be done when money is no object. Here’s the description from the Open Days directory:

This garden features design work by Edwina von Gal implemented about fifteen years ago at Ina’s house, and new garden areas designed by Joseph W. Tyree at the barn Ina designed and built on an adjoining piece of property two years ago. Edwina’s original design at the house is arranged in squares like a kitchen garden, but is planted with perennials, annuals, roses, vegetables, and herbs. It includes a crabapple orchard and rose and hydrangea gardens, and is designed to feel like a traditional East Hampton garden. Joseph’s work at the new barn is set up into three distinct areas: the lawn, a walled garden, and a Lagerstroemia walk. The lawn connects the house by a series of low, broad, stone steps to the barn’s main terrace which is bordered by a low hedge and shaded by two great Linden trees. The sun-filled walled garden is planted with beds of lavender and herbs and has fragrant roses trained on the walls. The lagerstroemia walk is planted with only the white ‘Natchez’ variety of Lagerstroemia, boxwood, hydrangeas, and perennials and wraps around the walled garden and barn.

A short distance off Main Street, the garden is so insulated by hedges and 40′ tall cypresses it could be somewhere in the Tuscan hills. It is undeniably beautiful, yet it feels somewhat impersonal and not particularly imaginative. Maybe I’m just being a grouch, or suffering a case of sour grapes, when you consider the dramatic contrast to my own humble weed patch.

Ina Garten is a fabulously successful entrepreneur, and by all accounts a delightful person, but she’s not a gardener. Even when you can hire the best to do it for you, somehow it’s not the same.

GARDEN VOYEUR: Same Designer, Different Styles in Park Slope

HERE’S AN ILLUMINATING EXAMPLE  of how a professional landscape architect, working to address clients’ unique needs and properties, comes up with totally individualized solutions.

The professional is Liz Farrell of Park Slope, who has degrees in environmental science and landscape architecture, and has been in business since 1994. The clients are, in the first case, a family with three teens, two dogs, and a small budget; in the second, an empty-nest couple with an 800 square foot, excessively shady backyard.


Sunny, tiny (18’x35’) and cost-conscious, this Park Slope garden was originally a rectangle of struggling lawn with a concrete perimeter.

Four years ago, the homeowners called Farrell to rethink it. They wanted an area for entertaining as well as space for their two yellow Labs to let off steam; they also had a desire for a cottage-style garden full of herbs and flowers.


Today, they have all that. Farrell divided the space into two functional areas: a paved half of Belgian block and a symmetrically planted garden centered on a circular area made of salvaged slate. To save money and raise the back and sides of the garden up a few inches, Farrell re-used the original concrete curb that rimmed the lawn. An arched trellis at the entrance to the planted area and a metal tuteur with clematis in the center provide vertical structure, along with two tall junipers at the back.



Bold primary colors on the house extension (a mud/utility room) provide cheer in all seasons.


Japanese holly divides the paved and planted areas. Summer-flowering shrubs (spirea, astilbe, honeysuckle, azaleas, climbing hydrangea, barberries) border the perimeter; perennials (geraniums, clematis, and more) and herbs are toward the center. Pink roses climb the fence on either side of the garden in early June.


11#2 ZEN

This 800 sq. ft. garden behind an elegant row house was a “real shade challenge,” in Farrell’s words. The homeowners wanted privacy while sitting on the deck and a focal element they could enjoy from the kitchen’s square bay window.


Farrell designed a spiral-shaped water feature of pebbles from Long Island Sound, with a simple, low fountain made by drilling a hole through natural rock. The stacked stone bench and bamboo fence, made from rolls of bamboo threaded with copper wire on a wood frame, give the garden a meditative, somewhat Asian feel.



Plantings include white paper birches, wood hyacinth, ferns, liriope, oak leaf and climbing hydrangeas and rhododendrons. The irregular paving stones have moss joints. A stand of bamboo under the metal deck and tall taxus in corners provide additional privacy from surrounding neighbors.