Dreamsville: The Garden of Peter Marino
by Mary Jasch
Lush is too small a word for the garden of world-renowned architect Peter Marino. Fabulous, exquisite – not big enough. Try fairy tale, magical, fantastical, opulent and perhaps, Five Star.
The Garden of Peter Marino, as depicted in the recently published book of the same name, (Rizzoli, New York 2017) and written by Mr. Marino himself, is a virtual escape down the “rabbit hole” into his Long Island, New York, garden. This 14”x14” five-pound tome is a photographic essay by two darn creative photographers, Jason Schmidt and Manolo Yllera, and next to Mr. Marino’s commentary, is a fascinating, can’t-put-it-down read and look-see.
What adds to the storybook quality of Marino’s garden and the book are the 42 bronze sculptures by Claude and Franscois-Xavier LaLanne. Try the bronze and black patina Le minotaure (a sensuous blend of human and forest beasts) and Mr. Rabbit, quite unperturbed, peering through the shrubbery.
To get to the rabbit hole, take the long drive through an allee´ of wine-leaved Zelkova serrata with twisted trunks and sheep that silently watch passersby, their bronze bodies made sturdy by Mr. LaLanne. The bronze Grand Wapiti – big, smooth and strong – awaits at the gate for kids young and especially old to be taken inside.
Part I: Photography of Jason Schmidt
Enter the Purple Garden, where stone English lions laze in the sun, nestled up to potted pink and purple hydrangeas that border a brick path to the 18th-century French fountain splashing over purple waterlilies. All is peaceful in May’s Purple Garden with potted Spanish lavender, young Verbena bonariensisand four wholesome rhododendron that sit like fat Buddhas in pots. The fountain’s formal structure fades outward through meadows and paths, through shrubs gone wild. But “Hail!” says bronze and copper Grand Olympe, peering through rhododendron.
When winter covers the Red Garden, silence whispers. When summer’s roses bloom, skies are blue, the house is white and the world is red.
Beyond, a cow and her calf survey the land, sometimes partaking of the hydrangeas, so tantalizing. But two bronze geese keep watch. Summer brings masses of tiny birds and butterflies to nectar and pollen of masses of cardinal flower, huge red hibiscus and huge pink hibiscus in the Pink Garden. Hot pink steeples of astilbe rise amid soothing green boxwood, as the nearby blaze of Spring’s azaleas fades to green. Great swath of soft pink roses, pink and white paniculata, spider dahlias and echinacea – 50 shades of pink.
The Hydrangea Garden is everywhere except for a collected mass of lacecap and Nikko Blue, ‘Annabelle’ and miniature chartreuse and white Chinese snowball viburnum. Here, the rabbit peeks through zillions of voluptuous blossoms. Behind him, layers of shrubs and trees rise and surge like a surfer’s dream.
Welcome to the Rose Garden. Find your way through the boxwood-bordered beds – four of single color roses, two of mixed colors, one central circle and eight arbors. Hybrid teas, floribundas, polyanthas, miniatures, old garden roses, moss roses, modern hybrids grow lushly and luxuriantly. It is bordered by a “frog fountain loaded with lotus edged on both sides with 176 ‘Flower Power’ roses. Here, Le Minotaur stands guard.
In The Forest, 100-year old zelkova trees, animal-like and fanciful, form the basis of Marino’s Harry Potter-esque nature park in the middle of Southampton. The forest does not imitate Nature. It was designed as fantasy with blossoms and berries, a shrub layer of blue hydrangea and rhododendron, and a woodland floor of ferns and lily-of-the-valley.
Take a romp on the wild side in the Yellow Garden, where tame meets the unrestrained. A whirlwind of Golden Hinoki ‘Crippsii’ and swirling trunks of other trees among masses of yellow perennials and bad-hair-day yellow plants cover the land.
An allee´ of American Holly leads to “the bowling alley of the giants,” so fitting with giant balls of ‘Little Gem’ Norway spruce tossed helter-skelter with a backdrop of massive hollies. What fun it must be to be lost among them!
The Orchard of mixed fruits and vegetable garden, also harbors several kinds of lemon trees, three giant LaLanne bronze apples on a tidy carpet of myrtle, a bee farm and a bronze rabbit-eared, fish-like weather vane. The curly branches of the fruit trees appear like lithe snaky arms of belly dancers among branches of evergreens flowing in the wind.
Part II: Photography of Manolo Yllera After the Storm
Pink hydrangeas under red sky, splashed with the beauty of decadence , vulnerability and senescence move toward dormancy as do long, golden blades in a meadow of purple verbena left to flourish. Fabric-like huge red hibiscus and everything are coated in red glow. Two tall geese gaze in silent wonder.
The colors of everything have changed – even the facial expressions on the bronze animals like the cow asking, “What to do?” Still Olympe is brave and moves through rhododendrons with curiosity and anticipation. White doves on pink roses spread their wings at the sight and feel of white panicled hydrangea and the warm sun, while fat ducks hide among the flowers. Mr. Rabbit is ready to rule the day, though he waits for the right moment to emerge.
The trees rise mauve, powerful yet silent living guardians of the gardens and their bronze inhabitants. The roses and hydrangea glow in the aftermath. There is camaraderie among the Rose Garden’s boxwood and blossoms as they lean on each other till the morning comes. The lotus and its stringy, fuzzy, haywire companion pose before the spectator roses. And all around them, cypress twirl and zelkova dance rings around the roses.
Sentinels watch – Diana the Huntress and her stag, the tall geese and the rabbit-eared fish – as the pink sky turns to gold. “Enter if you dare,” says the stone lion at the forest gate.
The Garden of Peter Marino is a dreamscape, an exquisite book of fine art photography of a gorgeous garden with straightforward and heartfelt commentary by Peter Marino, the garden’s creator. Get the book and take a trip down the rabbit hole where fantasy waits in a real garden. Never fear. You can take a small part of it and make it yours.
© The Garden of Peter Marino by Peter Marino, Rizzoli New York, 2017; Photography © Jason Schmidt and Manolo Yllera
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published January 07, 2018