Guild Hall’s Garden as Art Tour Focuses on Water Health

Water quality has been a hot button issue for several years now, but things have come to a head in recent weeks: Currently seven beaches in Suffolk County are closed due to high levels of bacteria. Crabbing and fishing in Georgica Pond are also off-limits. Keeping in mind the urgent need to purify Long Island’s waterways, this year’s Guild Hall Garden as Art Tour, which takes place on August 27, focuses on Water Vistas.

“This year’s theme is water, which is totally relevant because of everything going on with the algal blooms. [The tour] helps take the abstract idea of water health and makes it relatable,” says landscape designer Edwina von Gal.

Three years ago, von Gal founded the Perfect Earth Project (PEP), a nonprofit that works to promote toxin-free land management and gardening around the globe. A panel discussion, moderated by ecologist and PEP board member Carl Safina, on the topic of water conservation and gardening, will precede the tour. Panelists include Sarah Meyland, an associate professor at the Department of Environmental Technology and Sustainability; Sandra Postel, Director and Founder of the Global Water Policy Project; and Carl LoBue, Senior Marine Scientist at the Nature Conservancy on Long Island.

“It’s the most important garden tour we’ve ever done,” says Ruth Appelhof, Guild Hall’s Executive Director.

Attendees will enjoy water features and water views as they leisurely explore the grounds of five fabulous homes. The gardens represent a variety of aesthetics, from manicured to more spontaneous layouts. One, designed by Frederico Azevedo of Unlimited Earth Care, slopes down to Kellis Pond. “The clients wanted to keep the natural grade. The garden frames the water view, and with the water in mind we wanted to keep everything very organic and not cause damage to any natural structures,” Azevedo says. There’s a profusion of Black-eyed Susans in full bloom, as well as Casablanca lilies. “All the beds are prepared with organic compost. We don’t use chemicals, just fertilize with different kinds of organic materials.”

Another garden (with raised vegetable beds to boot!) overlooks Mecox Bay. Designed by Oehme, van Sweden & Associates, it packs a punch in a smaller space. “The diversity of the garden alludes to a larger piece of property. The current gardening movement in the Hamptons could be attributed to this garden, here, in terms of horticultural diversity,” says Eric D. Groft, one of the design firm’s principals. The home’s owner, Carole Rosenberg, says, “Our Water Mill house is set in a magnificent garden where design blends with the natural elements of water, sky and reed. Sweeping masses of ornamental grasses, perennials, flowing bulbs and rare clump bamboo create a different palette in each season.”

A more traditional garden in Sagaponack was created by renowned landscape architect and designer Edmund Hollander. Expansive lawns are ideal for frolicking children, as is a swing hanging from a large willow. An allée shaded by crepe myrtles leads to a gate overgrown with white hydrangeas. Beyond the gate is a grassy courtyard with a water feature at its center: a rectangular pool filled with smooth stones and spouts arcing water across the top of it. Borders of geraniums and Nepeta are in riotous bloom. The whole effect is of a grand estate with secrets hidden at the end of shaded pathways.

This tour is perfect for those seeking the unusual, artistic and environmentally consciouslandscape design. Whether you’re on the hunt for ideas for your own garden, or simply appreciate peaceful tranquility, this Garden as Art Tour: Water Vistas is sure to inspire.

Guild Hall’s Garden as Art Tour: Water Vistas kicks off August 26 with a cocktail reception for Patrons, Benefactors and Co-Chairs. The panel discussion takes place on August 27 from 10 a.m.–noon, followed by the tour from noon–5 p.m. For more information visit guildhall.org.

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