Garden Visits in the Hamptons

In Westhampton Beach, Ruth Summers's croquet lawn, where local tournaments are hosted

Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit some spectacular private gardens in the Hamptons. My first stop was the Bridgehampton estate of Louise and Leonard Riggio. He’s the founder and chairman of Barnes and Noble and the former chair of the Dia Art Foundation. The property is a parklike sculpture garden incorporating a teahouse set in a Japanese-inspired pond garden, a modernist pool house and a pool pergola. Most notable among the sculptures, which include works by Noguchi, Botero, and di Suvero, is Richard Serra’s “Sidewinder,” an immense, rusted steel curve that only a site like the Riggios’ two-acre front lawn could accommodate. “Sidewinder” is similar to “Tilted Arc,” the piece that caused so much controversy when it was installed in downtown Manhattan’s Federal Plaza in 1981 that it was ultimately dismantled and destroyed. I walked through it several times, wondering how it would be if the grass inside were allowed to grow two feet high and make the interior feel like a narrow, winding path of meadow.

On the Riggios’s Brigehampton front lawn, Richard Serra’s “Sidewinder.”

On the Riggios’ Brigehampton front lawn, Richard Serra’s “Sidewinder.”

The Riggio pool house.

The Riggio pool house

The Riggio pond garden, designed on former wetlands by Edwina von Gal.

The Riggio pond garden, designed on former wetlands by Edwina von Gal

Next, I visited “Villa des Amis,” the property of Jody and Larry Carlson — he’s a former HBO executive — who’ve captured the Tuscan landscape, with new-age touches, in Bridgehampton. “Our task is to widen our circle of connection, our circle of compassion with everyone and everything,” says Larry, an artist who seamlessly blends Renaissance-style draftsmanship with Eastern philosophies. Jody and Larry guided me through their myriad garden rooms — each has a true entrance and exit — to the meditative labyrinth they’ve crafted from grass mowed at two heights.

A Tuscan landscape at the Carlson’s property, “Villa des Amis.”

A Tuscan landscape at the Carlson’s property, “Villa des Amis.”

An enclosed Italianate garden room designed by Larry and Jody Carlson.

An enclosed Italianate garden room designed by Larry and Jody Carlson

The Carlson’s outdoor rooms are marked by stones carved with quotes about gardens and relationships.

The Carlsons' outdoor rooms are marked by stones carved with quotes about gardens and relationships

The Carlson’s labyrinth.

The Carlsons' labyrinth

And I dropped by my friend Ruth Summers’ place in Westhampton Beach, which I’ve visited and photographed several times. Master planned by Michael Spitzer and Dennis Piermont of Landgarden, Ruth’s gardens invite one to compete on the croquet lawn and tennis court; to take a dip in the 50-foot pool flanked by Renaissance sculptures and massed blue and white hydrangeas; and enjoy the dining patio surrounded by an allée of 14 Bradford pear trees.

Ruth is a nationally ranked croquet player and had just finished hosting the first local tournament of the season. Framed by sculpted 15-foot privet and yew hedges, the 70- by 90-foot croquet court is a laser-leveled carpet of bent grass, shaved three times weekly to a height of 3/16” in the manner of a putting green.

Ruth’s croquet lawn

Allee of Bradford pear trees

The “folly” at the entrance to Ruth Summers Westhampton Beach property is filled with six-foot “Red President” cannas, underplanted with orange celosia and framed by boxwood hedges

Interested in virtual visits to gardens in the Hamptons that are open to the public? Please check out my posts: “MORE Gardens in the Hamptons: Where the Signs Say Welcome” and “In the Hamptons: From the Madoo Conservancy to Marders.”

About writedesigner

Graphic designer, writer, and gardener Ellen Shapiro is based in Irvington, New York. A frequent contributor to design blogs and magazines including Print, Imprint,, Communication Arts, and Etapes, she writes about trends, issues and personalities in design, illustration, photography, and visual culture around the world.
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6 Responses to Garden Visits in the Hamptons

  1. Pru Montgomery says:

    Dear Ellen

    Congratulations on your new blog! I loved going to Italy and the beautiful gardens in the Hamptons!
    xoxo, Pru

  2. Melinda Kruvant says:

    Ellen……..just beautful……….you keep amazing us with your talent. Robert and I were enjoying watching our butterflies and hummingbirds this afternoon. Thinking of you!

  3. Ellen,
    I enjoyed every word and image of this blog. Delicious pictures and writing…you have so much to offer.
    I hope to share with you some of what’s been happening with the school gardens I’ve done. For a soon-to-be-updated glimpse and lots of good links, see my website as listed above, especially ‘garden pictures’.
    Keep up the lovely work!

  4. Thank you, thank you! This has been the most popular post on this blog, day in and day out, all year long. So I’ve just updated it with more and better photos of Ruth’s garden.

  5. Elena Prohaska Glinn says:

    Dear Ellen, Elena Prohaska Glinn here. Do you know some people still have that announcement You designed of Sam Glinn now 29 on their bulletin boards? My third year on Guild Hall Garden as Art committee. Living full-time in Springs EH. I’ll keep reading your blog.
    With warm regards, Elena

  6. Pingback: Nova’s Ark Project |

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