A Family Farm in the Hamptons

When you think of the Hamptons, do you think of boldface names, private jets, multi-million-dollar mansions, and parties you’re not invited to? Think again. Off Route 27, there’s a whole ’nother side of the Hamptons. Drive slowly and you’ll see signs like this, on Old Country Road in Westhampton.


Five dollars? Really? From another angle the handpainted signage is even more enticing.


The roadside table is on the honor system, with a cash box, and the flowers really are five dollars for a big, colorful bunch. The tomatoes are five dollars for a big bag. And they are great.



After making a big hit with my hostess gift of a bunch of zinnias, I biked over the next day and met the owners, Dermit and Carol Corcoran of Corcoran Farm. “My grandfather worked the same land, where he grew beans and hay for the horses and cows,” says Carol. “The plot where the zinnias grow used to be the pasture, so the soil was really rich. We were the first organic farm in the region and the first CSA in New York State. Everybody thought we were crazy.” Dermit moved east from Brooklyn to farm with Carol, and together they’ve built this 10-1/2-acre farm and raised four children.




They graciously took me behind the scenes to see the greenhouses and flats with seedlings. “The plot has new deer fencing,“ Carol pointed out. “For the first time this year, the local deer seem to be enjoying zinnias.” She practically apologized for the size of the zinnias. “After a very cold winter and late start, they finally bloomed and were like dinner plates the other day. The biggest ones have all been picked and sold.” And, Dermit noted, “No chemical fertilizers or insecticides have ever touched this soil.”

This labor of love that starts in early mornings and goes through the evening yields—in addition to the zinnias and tomatoes—peppers, onions, eggplant, herbs, and several other varieties of flowers. Can a family make a living with a small farm like this? Yes, says Carol. “We don’t just sell from the roadside table. We sell at local farmers markets and to restaurateurs who want the freshest organic local produce.”


Carol Corcoran

A daughter is about to be married, and Carol is growing flowers for the bouquets. Guests will be wowed. The five-dollar bunch I bought more than a week ago still looks perfect on the table on our deck. Julius and I will be back tomorrow morning for more—on the way to another beautiful mid-week in Westhampton.


Posted in Farms and Farm Markets, Food from the Garden, The Hamptons, Travel-USA Northeast | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hamptons Designer Show House 2014

This year’s Hampton Designer Show House seems like its made for a huge extended family that entertains lots of guests. There are so many comfortable, inviting sitting areas that, say, you had a book in one hand and a drink in the other, it would be difficult to decide where to sit down. My first choice, after some consideration, is the covered porch, decorated in hot pink and red, by Anne Tarasoff Interiors.

1 Covered Porch

Seen from the outside, it was even more inviting, withe the curtains blowing in the breeze. And I’m partial to decorating with New Yorker cover art from The Cartoon Bank.

2 PinkPorch

The pool looks delicious. The pool surround was designed by India Hicks, with furniture and accessories sourced only from Frontgate, a catalog and online resource.

3 PoolHouse

The lines of the pool are reflected in the architecture of the pool house terrace, designed by Caleb Anderson.

4 Pool

The pool house, designed by  Bakes and Kropp, is the space most visitors seem to want to move right into. With comfy furniture, a kitchenette, and ample storage space, it’s all a single person might need for a happy summer at the beach.

Mr. Anderson created a white garden, hanging from the pergola.

5 Hanging Plants

There is a different kind of plant environment on the space called the rear landing, designed by Allison Hennessy.

6 RearLanding

Back inside the house, the kitchen is where most visitors seem to gather. Chris Ciuffo, son of the owner of Ciuffo Cabinetry—a fourth-generation Long Island company—takes the time to demonstrate and explain all the details, including the materials, finishes—three coats of Italian lacquer on the cabinets—appliances, and hardware. Ciuffo Cabinetry is also responsible for the laundry room and all cabinetry in the house’s eight bathrooms and numerous closets.

7 Kitchen

The dining room, which is set for a dinner party 24 at three square tables, decorated by Mecox Design Services, features a provocative piece of beach/pool artwork.

8 Dining Room

It’s unlike me to like something feminine and a little fussy. But my favorite upstairs space is this charming bedroom by Gil Walsh. Deemed “a tribute to Betty Sherrill,” this room with its yellow walls and multiplicity of patterns and trims, seems a perfect spot for everyone from a pre-teenage girl to a grandma.

9 Bedroom V

And on the lower level, near the game room, theater and rec room, a taste of the future of art: an ever-changing electronic painting.

10 Electronic Picture

The 2014 Hampton Designer Showhouse is open every day from 11 am to 5 pm through Monday, September 1 at 408 Pauls Lane, Bridgehampton. Admission is $35, which benefits Southampton Hospital.

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Streetscapes of San Miguel


Let’s say you’re visiting San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for a few days or a week. On a typical morning, you might have breakfast in your hotel’s patio or rooftop garden and enjoy a view like this.




When you’re ready for a walk into town, you’ll start down one of the steep cobblestone streets.



You’ll be constantly tempted to step inside little shops selling handicrafts, clothing, pottery, blown glass, furniture, paintings and sculpture. But don’t forget to look up, where other kinds of visual art might surprise you.


Soon, the Gothic spires of the city’s main church, La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel, will peek above the flat-roofed streetscape.


The closer you get, the more magical the church seems, like a vision from a science-fiction movie.


You’ll turn the corner and meet the flower-sellers.


And then you will be in town, with restaurants, bars, galleries, shops, mix of old and new culture.


In the center is El Jardín, where you can pretend you’re a character in Seurat’s 1885 painting, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.

San Miguel_12Jardin

And, if you’re really lucky, like we were, you’ll be a spectator at Los Locos parade, where everyone in San Miguel dresses up and goes crazy.

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Desertscapes of Guanajuato, Mexico

1 CharcoHeartCharco del Ingenio Botanical Garden, located in the outskirts of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico, contains many surprises, including a heart-shaped cactus paddle that might be the ideal valentine to send to someone who’s giving you a hard time.

We spent a morning there last week, exploring and photographing the desertscapes and plants: the life-size inspiration for our garden club’s trough gardens.

2 Charco

3 Charco2

I hope they are inspiration to anyone considering ripping out lawn and installing a xeriscape of water-conserving desert plants and rocks.

One of the highlights of the Charco del Ingenio (pool of inventiveness) is its glass Conservatory of Mexican plants. A sign at the entrance instructs visitors to speak in very quiet voices.

6 CharcoGreenhouse

5 Charco4

4 Charco3

These desertscapes invited a closer look:

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These plants grow all over San Miguel, in window boxes and in walled and rooftop gardens. One of the most impressive rock gardens is in the community where we stayed, a few blocks from Parque Juarez:

11 Villas del Parque

These succulents grow in colorful pots on the patio of our host:

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We spent our last day at Mineral de Pozos, a formerly abandoned silver mining town that is being renovated as a tourist destination, with museums, hotels and shops:

7 PozosOverall

We enjoyed lunch in Pozos at the restaurant at Posada de las Minas hotel and spa, among these surroundings:

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Coming soon: posts on streetscapes and rooftops of San Miguel and the amazing Los Locos parade.

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Sabores San Miguel


Last weekend, leafy Parque Juárez, just a few blocks from where we were staying, was the site of a three-day food festival, Sabores San Miguel. Hundreds of people gathered under a tent erected on the basketball court to savor wines, mezcal, and small plates made by the best chefs and restaurateurs in San Miguel de Allende. And to listen and dance to live music by some great bands.





TacosMy lunch. A picadillo taco and a taco that contained a small masa creation stuffed with cheese and topped with mole sauce.



RosewoodChefs2Cooking demonstrations went on every afternoon. Here, two chefs from San Miguel’s Rosewood Hotel make “Ceviche de Camarones con Agua Negra” —  shrimp ceviche wrapped in thin slices of watermelon and garnished with a delicate ancho chile sauce. The chef at right is flaming large corn tortillas from Oaxaca.


Rosewood_CevicheThe finished dish. I loved the unusual, thin, crispy, charred tortillas, asked and was able to take the ones not used for this demo home and serve them at our dinner party that evening (which was enjoyed outdoors as music from the park wafted over the trees).

Posted in Dining In and Out, Food from the Garden, Travel-Mexico | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s Not Tough To Be a Trough Gardener

I  joined fellow members of the Garden Club of Irvington on a recent visit to Oliver Nursery in Fairfield, CT, where we got an expert demonstration on how to plant troughs.

Although “trough” is one of the weirder one-syllable words in the English language — shouldn’t it be spelled tr-aw-ff ? — troughs are not tough to put together, we learned, and can endure many years as garden focal points. Like miniature landscapes, they feature an array of compatible tiny elements — usually succulents, evergreens, or other rock garden plants — arranged with small rocks and top-dressed with fine gravel.

Our club is preparing and entering a trough garden to compete in the Zone III Garden Club of America flower show presented by Three Harbors Garden Club in Woodbury, NY, which will be open to the public free of charge June 9 and 10.

The competition rules are as follows: “A collection of three or more shade-loving perennials exhibited in a trough 12″ or less made of hypertufa, cement, or a natural material. Minimum of six months ownership. (That means the plants must be grown in your own garden; you can’t run out and buy and plant them a day or two before the show.) Several of us grow shade-loving perennials, and we met last week at my friend Renee Shamosh’s garden to plant the trough. Here are step-by-step instructions:

1. First, prepare the trough and the soil, which must be free-draining. Recommended is a layer of fine gravel topped by planting mix with a generous amount of Perlite added. This is Renee’s 12″ cement trough:

1 EmptyTrough

2. Next, line up all the plants you’re considering. Four of us brought our offerings of small rooted offshoots of tiarella, astilbe, heuchera, sweet woodruff, miniature hosta, and ferns.

2 Plants

3. Start arranging plants the trough, moving them around until it looks like a natural miniature landscape with a pleasing blend of leaf shapes, colors, and textures.

3 Arrangingfrom Above

4. Get in there to make sure the roots are planted. Proper tools are a tiny shovel and nimble fingers. The small scissors are used to trim any brown edges or errant stems.

4 Arrange with Hands

5. Rinse the arrangement off with a gentle shower from a garden hose, touch up (we used clumps of moss), and admire. Let the plants settle in a protected location.

5 finished trough

Renee had already made this beautiful, larger cement trough with succulents from Oliver Nurseries, now marked with botanical names, and top dressed with fine gravel.


I used small molded plaster containers and Mexican pottery containers. When working with Semperivum tectorum (hens and chicks), I learned at Oliver, the  “chicks” can be gently removed from the “hen” and planted separately. Thus, one $6.98 plant, most of which is in the “tree-trunk” planter at left, yielded babies for three other planters. Next, a trip to the pet supply or aquarium store to buy the mini-gravel for top dressing..


Lots more information is available from the North American Rock Garden Society.

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A Visit to the Philadelphia Flower Show

1 Frames

The theme of this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show, which runs through Sunday, is ARTiculture. Art museums, including the Guggenheim, the Getty, and the Smithsonian, have teamed up to produce spectacular exhibits.

2 Pool

The show is crowded, commercial, expensive ($32 per ticket + parking) and wonderful. There’s snow on the ground in Philadelphia, but landscape and floral designers have brought spring—and all seasons—inside in a series of showy displays. Above, the “ARTiculture Garden” at the show entrance.

3 Competition

The competition section features entries from local horticulturists and garden club members.

4 Chamaecyparis

I was most enthralled by the succulents and the evergreens.

5 MrsAnderson

One of the most touching displays is the collection of blue ribbons won by Mrs. Samuel M. V. Hamilton, described as “one of the most prolific and passionate participants in the Flower Show’s horticulture classes… a fierce competitor who eagerly sought new challenges.” Mrs. Hamilton retired from competition this year, but “generously offered to display some of her favorite specimens,” including her topiaries, flowering trees, orchids, and clivias, which surround her awards.

6 EuphorbiaEsculenta

Current prize-winning plants include this Euphorbia Esculenta (above) and Hart’s Tongue Fern (below).

7 CurlyFern

8 Niche

In the floral design section of the competition, themes are expressed in niches the size of department-store windows.

9 Shopping

And (after watching a few live demonstrations and taking a breath) there is, of course, shopping. The Marketplace consists of twelve aisles of vendors selling fresh plants and flowers, garden furniture, decor, seeds, pottery, jewelry, antiques, vases. Judging by what people are carrying around, a bunch of pussy willows at $3.95 is one of the most popular purchases.

I couldn’t go home without a few wonderful things to plant, and after some deliberation, chose three ferns from Wedgewood Gardens in Glen Mills, PA. A future prize winner in the making?

10 WedgewoodGardens

Then, dinner at Vedge Restaurant on Locust Street. On Saturday, Chefs Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby will be demonstrating their unique vegan recipes in the show’s “Garden to Kitchen” studio.

Posted in Flower and Plant Shows, Horticulture, Nurseries and Garden Centers | Tagged , , | 1 Comment