Landscape Pleasures Opens the Less Typical Gardens to the Public

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Courtesy Oehme van Sweden Landscape Arcihitecture.
Courtesy Oehme van Sweden Landscape Arcihitecture.

By Michelle Trauring

Sagg Main doesn’t exactly scream serenity to anyone who has driven through post Memorial Day weekend—let alone to those living on it.

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The seemingly endless bumper-to-bumper traffic through the heart of the Hamptons wasn’t enough to deter the Rovner family from purchasing a 2-acre lot there, complete with an apple orchard, old specimen trees and tall privet hedges screening in a century-old farmhouse.

It was “your typical Sagaponack,” according to LaGuardia Design Group principal Dan Thorp, who saw the property for the first time in 2012. But, he is happy to report, what came next was far from a typical Sagaponack makeover.

While the original home did come down, what went up in its place pales in comparison to some of the monstrosities seen in the second-richest zip code in the country. The roughly 3,500-square-foot modern home is beautifully rectangular, asymmetrical and cubist in form, Mr. Thorp said, and his challenge was to design a garden that echoed and moved with it.

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The result will be on view during the Parrish Art Museum’s annual Landscape Pleasures weekend, kicking off Saturday with a symposium. Darrel Morrison will discuss landscape design as ecological art, followed by Andrea Cochran, who will delve into capturing the ephemeral in landscape design, and Charles Birnbaum, who will explain the importance of landscape legacy and stewardship.

Those are two concepts Oehme, van Sweden principal Eric Groft certainly incorporates into his work, and can be seen in the Amagansett garden of Michael Forman and Jennifer Rice, one of four local properties on view Sunday during a daylong slate of garden tours across the East End.

Each garden brings a different design aesthetic to the table. For Herb and Karen Friedman, they envisioned a landscape that would complement their Mediterranean stucco farmhouse in Bridgehampton and sought help from deLashmet & Associates to make it happen. Not far from there lives the 7-acre English-style landscape of Loren Skeist and Marlene Marko. Mr. Thorp’s Sagaponack creation melds minimalist architecture with a natural landscape, while Mr. Groft found inspiration in blending Long Island’s agricultural roots with the sea.

“The house formed a U-shaped courtyard, so we sunk the courtyard down three steps to exaggerate the space,” Mr. Groft explained. “We wanted it to feel like it was close to the beach with layers of plantings that are reminiscent of the nearby dunes and also contemporary country by using the form of a farm trough as a water feature.”

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Schizachyrium circle the courtyard, with accents of eragrostis and crepe myrtle trees. The home’s large swimming pool features a profusion of American native forbs— agastache, black-eyed Susans and liatris. White blooming flowers—sea foam roses and hibiscus—sprinkle the entry garden’s clean, green palate, and silvers, purples and whites accentuate the dining terrace garden.

These two acres are a vast departure from the Rovner family garden, though it also seeks to appear as if it’s always existed in the surrounding landscape, which includes an old apple orchard, towering maple trees, privet hedge and meadow.

With the farmhouse leveled, the land was an open playground for SLR Architecture and the LaGuardia Design Group. They decided to move the entrance to the new house from Sagg Main to Farmview Drive, and embraced the natural aesthetic of the property, leaving as much of it in place as possible, Mr. Thorp said.

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“The house is a very bold statement, and instead of decorating around it with little shrubs and foundation plantings, the landscape is more gestural and bold, as well, with big sweeps of grasses,” he said. “The house is very modern in nature—very non-symmetrical, very axonometric. The pool was rotated perpendicular to the house and pushed off to the side. There’s no grand symmetry there. It’s not like Versailles. It’s very much the opposite of that.”

The architecture and garden play off of one another like a dance, he said, zigzagging together from left to right and overlapping at times. Much like the house is very singular in material—mostly black siding and glass on the exterior—the plant material is used in the same vein.

Other than a recreational lawn behind the house, the rest of the property reflects the existing landscape. Cedar trees and London planetrees mingle with the mix of apple trees, which include McIntosh and yellow delicious varieties. The front of the house features crepe myrtle trees under-planted with fountain grass, and a cutting garden overflowing with vegetables, herbs and flowers can be found just outside the kitchen.

But, by far, the biggest hurdle was screening against the main drag through Sagaponack. Attenuation fences layered with evergreen trees, plus three water features—a lily pad fountain, a pool waterfall and an infinity-edge fountain—did the trick, Mr. Thorp said.

“I think it’s more dynamic than most landscapes,” he said. “A lawn can be very static, and with the introduction of the meadow, the landscape has taken on a new energy. It’s kind of an unexpected energy.

“When you drive in, there’s a lot of movement to the ground plane,” he continued. “It’s not just your typical formal garden with hedges and small static spaces. It’s more about the overall landscape having a kinetic energy that speaks to the nature of the environment.”

Landscape Pleasures, this year held in memory of Jack deLashmet, will kick off with a symposium featuring Andrea Cochran, Charles Birnbaum and Darrel Morrison on Saturday, June 11, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill. The next day, self-guided tours of four East End gardens will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are $225 and $175 for members, or $350 for sponsor-level tickets and $1,000 for benefactor-level tickets to include admission to a cocktail party on Saturday evening at the Wyman estate in Southampton. For more information, visit parrishart.org.

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