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  • Like all living things, plants are organized into natural units or families based on their genetic similarities. Understanding what family your favorite garden plant is a member of can help you better care and plan for it. For a botanist, looking at the flower (the reproductive structure) is usually all that’s needed to identify a plant's family.

  • In 1986, two Amagansett neighbors, Bill Shank, an architectural designer, and John Whitney, a garden designer and horticulturist, often found themselves having conversations over their common back fence about horticulture. They realized that they both thought it would be great for the East End horticultural community to be better connected.

  • Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia) was virtually unknown in our area as recently as three decades ago. Two things changed that.


  • While much grander houses have sprung up around it in the 53 years since Tinka and the late Bud Topping transformed an 1811 barn in Sagaponack into a family home, none of them speak as much to place and history.

    Mr. Topping’s family roots in Sagaponack stretch back to the 17th century, and the house is on family land where he grew up farming potatoes with his father.

  • When Robert and Jeanette Schwagerl purchased the house on Quail Hill in Amagansett in 1989, it had been for the most part abandoned. “I was going to tear it down,” Mr. Schwagerl said during a recent tour. Within a year, he had designed a new house and hired Ed Hollander, a landscape architect, to plan the grounds.

  • It’s not every day that a single four-bedroom house will reflect the history of a village, especially not a village with as multifarious a background as Sag Harbor’s.

    Yet consider the Hampton Street residence of Carl Hribar and Ki Hackney. For starters, there’s the best-guess date of its construction, 1790, when Sag Harbor was a bustling port and an important New York, well, almost-city.

  • Richard Udice uses only red ornaments. A designer who loves Christmas, Mr. Udice decorates C. Whitmore’s Gardens every year and helps the shop’s clients choose flowers, accessories, and even clothing for the holidays.

  • Wreaths - circles of wintertime greens with their sharp, bright balsam smells, or vines wound into circles and braided with flowers or herbs - are symbolic of the circle of the year, the turn from darkness to light, the strength of life overcoming the forces of winter, of victory and celebration.

    While once worn as crowns, wreaths evolved to become hangings for doors — used in Europe, reportedly, to identify particular houses, like house numbers do today - and as decorations marking the harvest and holiday seasons.

  • On my very first Christmas out of my parents' house, I decided to have my own, live, Christmas tree. I had been collecting ornaments over the years, mainly on trips, so I actually had a small box of them set aside for the small spruce I eventually lugged home.

    My grandmother, who lived on Shelter Island, believed in tradition. She didn't like Christmas trees with nothing but new ornaments, like the ones I had bought in Las Vegas and Toronto.

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    For those of a certain age — perhaps 12 and up — Christmas may be more about nostalgia than the anticipation of tearing colorful wrappings off what Santa delivered amidst a long winter’s nap. Homesick, wistful, reflective, melancholy —  emotions like these are common at this time of year in those who are no longer children.

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