Garden Party in The Hamptons

Saturday, August 18, 6:30 pm

A beautiful Saturday evening in late summer, a lovely setting, reflections in the pool, a sunset over the water, clinking wine glasses, and good conversation. In the Hamptons, a region noted for spectacular gardens, this was a garden to remember, and to talk about. Especially about the challenges involved in creating it. How was the Monet-like effect created? The designer, Roxine Brown of Harmonia Inc., Bridgehampton, shared her secrets.

Guests were greeted by magnificent mixed borders along the drive leading to the house.

“The town of Southampton is very strict,” Brown explained. “The requirement out here is to plant with natives, and it’s not easy to do a perennial garden with only natives and have it look colorful and romantic.”

Among the plants in the border are extraordinary specimens of Hydrangea quercifolia Snow Queen

We were touring the decidedly romantic gardens of the private waterfront home of Howie Rubin and Mary Henry on two acres in Water Mill. The occasion was the HG&C (Hampton Cottages and Gardens) magazine book signing for Gardens for a Beautiful America 1835-1935, Photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnston by Sam Watters.

As you approach the house, the tree-lined path begins a graceful curve.

The Rubin-Henry tennis court.

“Before we did the back yard, we did the front,” says Mary Henry. “We needed an enclosed space for our Yorkshire terrier.”

“The existing fountain was too formal for the house,” Mary adds.

After enjoying the vistas on the walk along the drive to the house and back garden, guests were greeted with wine and hors d’oeuvres.

The pool is surrounded by beautiful stonework.

A representative from the local BookHampton shop with copies of “Gardens for a Beautiful America.”

Guests gathered around the pool to chat about the book—and the house and gardens.

The designer, using only five plants, created meadow drifts of color. Here, pink echinachia and yellow moonbeam coriopsis.

Brown was able to create the Monet effect with just five plants, all approved as natives by the town—artemesia, coriopsis, echinachia, liatris and lobelia. “When plant material is limited, it has to be carefully selected and used in big drifts,” she said.

Steps from the back yard lead to a dock on picturesque Calf Creek, which leads into Mecox bay.

“A big problem is the phragmites” (the grasses on the foreground of the photo above) “which are taking over everything and crowding out the natives,” Roxine pointed out. I didn’t know until that moment that the reedy beach grasses that wave so gracefully along many Eastern waterways are so invasive that regional departments of environmental conservation are implementing phragmite control programs.

Guests expressed their appreciation for the herb garden. Thyme is planted between the stepping stones.

Roxine Brown of Harmonia Inc.

Mary Henry (l) greets the guests.

Later, I chatted with homeowners Howie Rubin and Mary Henry. “We have really enjoyed working with Roxine, who truly understood our vision,” said Mary. “This was empty property when we bought it 20 years ago, in 1992. As the houses across Calf Creek kept going up, we wanted to soften the view. Roxine got special permission to plant a row of six crape myrtles (below), which I always thought of as a Southern tree, but they work beautifully here.”

Guests enjoy the sunset against the background of six recently planted crape myrtles.

Sunset over Calf Creek, Water Mill.

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.
This entry was posted in Beach houses, Conservation, Garden Photography, Horticulture, Private Gardens, The Hamptons, Travel-USA Northeast and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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