The Springs artist Margaret Kerr made an enclosed garden at her home and studio overlooking Accabonac Harbor using only plants and elements found in medieval cloistered gardens. Surrounding the house and scattered about the property are the brick carpets for which she is renowned. .
If it’s possible, I think I love my garden best in winter and find it more exciting than in spring. That’s because something is in flower, and most often it is fragrant, nearly every sunny, warm day from Christmas week on. Spring, when everything explodes into flower at once, can be overwhelming. So much is happening that it all becomes a big blur. But in January and February, the garden slows down, and it is easier to appreciate and luxuriate in each of the garden’s treasures.
What? How could it be October when jolts of fresh colors and sensuous fragrance have been reverberating in the garden all month?
I don’t mean the last roses of the year or the Coreopsis Full Moon that has been flowering its little yellow heads off since July in the Mimi Meehan Native Plant Garden.
Gardening, so it is said, is the manipulation of nature. However, some of the most electric, as well as subtle, compositions within a garden can occur through happenstance: The gardener introduces a packet of seed or a seedling given by a friend and nature takes over, often for decades afterward. It is the gift that keeps on giving.
When most of us think about clematis (accent on first, not second syllable), we seldom get beyond the large-flowered climbers that adorn mailboxes, lampposts, and other gawky supports. They may look gorgeous in catalogs and exhibits at the Chelsea Flower Show, but in my own experience at least, the large-flowered vines have proven to be problematic at best, as the foliage and roots succumb quickly to clematis wilt, a fungal disease.
The fog, drizzle, and downpour on Saturday morning reflected the mood of the scores who attended a funeral service at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Hampton for Jim Jeffrey. Nature shed tears for the loss of a friend and leader who touched the lives of many in the diverse pockets of our community: music, A.A., the congregation of St. Luke’s, gays and lesbians, and not least, gardening. I can’t speak for the other groups, but in the East Hampton gardening world, Jim was patriarch.
The seamless integration of house and garden with the landscape is the ideal, even the Holy Grail, of garden and landscape design. Here on the East End a few jewels meet the challenge.
Recently, I was introduced to a place on the bay in Springs that meets that ideal. Thanks to the Cultural Landscape Foundation, one of a series of garden dialogues throughout the country was held at the home of Bob and Margo Alexander in which Thomas Balsley, a prominent landscape architect who helped create the Alexanders’ garden, spoke about the process.