“The Hamptons (the South Fork of the East End of Long Island) is where you go to be seen. The North Fork is where you go to hide out.” So I’ve heard. Maybe not to hide out, but to truly relax. A visit last weekend to Greenport, a former whaling and fishing village of about 2,000 on the North Fork took us through bucolic countrysides of farms and vineyards, with nary a Jaguar showroom or Tory Burch shop in sight: the landscape of the Hamptons before they became The Hamptons.
Stroll around Greenport and you’ll find—in addition to a harbor with boat slips and seafood restaurants—shops selling lace curtain panels, old silver serving pieces, and hand-crafted rugs and birdhouses. A favorite spot on Main Street is Clarke’s Garden, owned by Peter Clarke and Anthony Gigante. Peter enjoyed a successful career in corporate marketing with 1-800-FLOWERS, Victoria’s Secret, and Godiva. Anthony was head of merchandising at Gracious Home and headed an interior design business for 18 years. After coming out to Greenport for ten summers they decided to move out full-time last year and open a shop featuring high quality plants, containers, tools, and home and garden accessories.
Lu Kirchhoff, who was lovingly tending the displays last Friday afternoon, explained: “Clarke’s Garden carries beautiful things for indoors and out. We provide full container planting services as well as design and installation for select projects. We’ve done plantings for high-end restaurants in the area, and Peter has led the effort to provide seasonal container plantings in the Village of Greenport. We’re continuing to grow the residential maintenance side of the business and may offer a watering service next season. We like to sell American-made products and also focus on organic insect control and soil amendments. We also import Clarington Forge tools from England and Impruneta pottery from Italy (we love it because it won’t crack in the winter) and also carry Campo de Fiori, and Campania, among many other brands.”
There is much to admire at Clarke’s Garden, but I was most taken with the Container Collection gardens-in-a-box pictured above, created by Beds and Borders, another North Fork business. Each recyclable cardboard basket contains nine plants—perfect for people who need a little help with choosing harmonious plant combinations. The boxes are created for full sun, part shade, and shade, and come with planting instructions, including a chart showing how to arrange the plants for maximum visual impact.
(l-r) Laurie Short and Lu (Lucine) Kirchhoff of Clarke’s Garden, Eleanor Cooper-Seal
The nicest part of the visit, however, was sitting on a bench in the lush outdoor patio, surrounded by beautiful plants, and enjoying a warm, friendly chat with my new BFFs Laurie, Lu, and Eleanor, who with her husband Sean, owns Knotted Dreams, the great rug and gift shop across the street.