Estate Gardens on ARF Tour

A little peace and tranquillity in a well-tended garden
The main house, like the other buildings on the Southampton property owned by Perri and Eric Ruttenberg, is nestled into an unfussy landscape. Jennifer Landes

   With the first of the busy weekends of summer behind us, everyone could use a little peace and tranquillity in a well-tended garden. It would be even better to be in someone else’s Eden, where each little weed or withered blossom is not an invitation to get to work.
    Fortunately, a number of organizations provide just that opportunity. The Parrish Art Museum’s garden tour was held last weekend, and Guild Hall’s will take place later this summer. On Saturday, the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons will make its 26th annual entry into the field, and it looks like a fine contender judging from a preview last week of two of the gardens.
    ARF has chosen to stay within Southampton Village this year, and is offering five private destinations in the estate section. The two previewed bear the influence or complete design of two significant landscape architects.
    At the Stables and Poultry House Gardens of Claverack-Keewaydin,  dating from 1892 and owned by Perri and Eric Ruttenberg, Jack deLashmet and Kim Lipkin of Avant Gardens Estate Management provided the background. The name is Dutch for clover field; the property was modeled after a country house built in the Hudson River valley. The original Victorian gardens were designed by the Olmsted Brothers.
    Mr. deLashmet began consulting for the family when they were adding to a loose amalgamation of the stable, dairy, and poultry barns that were original to the property. They could have done what many others do, he said, gutting the house and building fresh, but “they didn’t, instead they are repurchasing property,” 10 acres so far, “to restore what it was” — up to 30 acres that originally spanned from Captain’s Neck Lane to Halsey Neck Lane.
    The result is a blend of fields, wetlands, and denser, more formal plantings, close to the numerous buildings but in a way that strategically camouflages  the man-made from the natural. Mr. Ruttenberg, a dedicated naturalist, wanted an unfussy setting that gave as much back to the landscape and the fauna that inhabits it as possible. The meadow is a tableau vivant of birds and butterflies, as much habitat as garden. The tall sequoias, beeches, birches, and other specimen trees provide further accommodation for visiting wildlife.
    Mr. Lipkin, who has been working on the garden almost from the beginning, some two decades ago, said his brief has always been that it not be “prissy or precious.” This can sometimes lead to philosophical struggles: Mr. Lipkin might want to edge a bed that Mr. Ruttenberg would prefer to see less tended. There is an overgrown aspect here and there that makes the property feel more English in some respects, but welcomely subtle, not too clipped. “The vibe is really relaxed,” said Mr. deLashmet.
    The Ruttenbergs keep the lawns up organically; they were one of the first families to explore that option here. They also keep a nursery for trees that are stressed and have an apple orchard. The pool is about to undergo a redesign and plans for different options may be ready to look at by Saturday.
    Around the corner at Redcraft, the garden of Michael Raynes, things are a bit more formal. Mr. Guillot is known for a minimalist and classic approach.
    Copper beeches contribute two blockbuster moments. One is a huge specimen tree, probably one of the oldest around, that towers over the old brick house, which looks kind of funky Arts and Crafts with black trim and accents instead of the more expected white and cream. The other is a tall, groomed hedge of copper beech, which is stunning.
    The formal and walled gardens look ripe for a caper or clandestine rendezvous, with a number of flowering shrubs and plants and other composed “rooms” of greenery. The pool and pool house are at once classic and cool modern, with the pool house’s black-and-glass exterior echoing the black elements of the main house. The walk to the pool is flanked by a single-row allée of large horse chestnuts, which make a lush green escort to the more minimal bathing area.
    The entire property shows an astute mastery of balance, with showier elements accompanied by moments of restraint.
    Other properties on the tour include Four Fountains, the garden of Maria and Bruce Bockmann; Sand Trap, the garden of Ruth and Ted Baum, and the garden of Christy and Clifford Brech­ner. The tour, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., also showcases the rose garden and rose show at the Rogers Memorial Library.
    Tickets for the tour, at $75, are available by calling ARF or at the ARF Adoption Center in Wainscott, the ARF Thrift Shop in Sagaponack, and several garden centers:  Lynch’s and Mecox Gardens in Southampton, Marder’s in Bridgehampton, East Hampton Gardens, the Bayberry in Amagansett, and Sag Harbor Florist. A cocktail reception will follow at the 40-acre estate and sculpture garden of Leni and Adam Sender in Sag Harbor. Tickets for both the tour and the reception are $175 and must be purchased in advance.
    Barbara Slifka and Mark Fichandler are the co-chairs of the event, which will benefit the animal shelter and adoption center.