Artful, Practical Garden Ideas at LongHouse Reserve

Jack Lenor Larsen at LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton, photo by Tom Kochie
Jack Lenor Larsen at LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton, photo by Tom Kochie

Tucked away in a quiet residential neighborhood in East Hampton are 16 acres designed to delight and expand your spirit. The LongHouse Reserve website explains, “Jack Lenor Larsen, internationally known textile designer, author, and collector is one of the world’s foremost advocates of traditional and contemporary crafts.” Larsen shares his property and collections of art and artifacts through the LongHouse Reserve. Last month the LongHouse opened for the season. When Larsen emerged onto the lawn, a crowd of admirers gathered around him. Dressed in a Scandinavian-looking coat of white wool and blue and red decoration, he was as interesting as the sculpture. Clearly people treasure him and this place he has gifted to the community.

The art show chosen for the opening of the season, “Roots of Modern,” filled my imagination. Inside the gallery were amazing objects set side-by-side; some 5,000 years old next to contemporary works. Some were useful tools with great design features, like the fish scalers. These stones are cut in the shape of fish with protruding nubs like a lemon zester. They were both functional and beautiful, very tactile.

My favorite thing in the show was a small loom made of bamboo bent into a triangle that employed a piece of bone to separate the warp and the woof. It’s displayed in the process of weaving a 1 1/2 inch fabric. Each new row was very tiny and delicate.

The collection has fantastic pottery of amazing shapes, and the larger pieces make one wonder about the sheer time they took to create. There were also many items that were beaded with intricate stitches.

All of this is wonderful. However, the gardens captivated me the most. I’m new to the East End and had never been to the LongHouse gardens before. I was drawn from one area to another. The plantings, shapes and sculptures are amazing. If you are planning a garden, I recommend visiting this garden for ideas first, regardless of whether you live on an estate or have a small backyard. The plant material is low maintenance and appropriate for the East End. For sheer delight there are sculptures around every corner, many of which beckon you to enter and join the landscape. There are many forms of fencing, small structures and an arbor which could be adapted by the home gardener. The fence used to block a work area is made of long sticks leaning toward each other and intersecting, like a barricade. The presentation is a piece of functional sculpture. Another structure is the rose arbor, constructed of three twisted pieces of rebar for each half hoop section and three bamboo poles over the top to provide more support for climbing roses. This is a DIY idea easily adapted by the backyard gardener.

Near the house are five small gardens about 12’ x 12’ in size, and each one shows a different possibility for a small yard. One garden is made intriguing by the texture and color variety of plants of gray and green, lavender, vinca, autumn sedum and tiny spring bulbs.

In other gardens you will experience pathways made of tree rounds and dark gravel to match. This is contrasted with meadows of daffodils playing against pine, rounded evergreens, and deciduous trees.

In my short visit I missed many pieces of sculpture and plantings. I intend to return this month when the perennials are blooming. Friends of mine are having their wedding in this beautiful venue. The plantings are designed to bloom and produce a photogenic back drop throughout the growing season.

If you want to give a grand party, want to gather ideas for your new garden, or just wish to spend a day being refreshed, visit The LongHouse Reserve. Take your cell phone along to enjoy an audio tour.

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