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group tour to long island old westbuty gardens and private estates

Long Island Revisited

by Mary Jasch

On September 26 & 27, 24 garden lovers took the Rollin’ Garden Party Bus to experience two days of Long Island’s premier gardens.

DAY ONE

At Old Westbury Gardens, 100 volunteers keep the former Phipps estate happening They tend the gardens and gift shop, greet the public and guide them through the mansion and gardens.

Receptionist Geraldine Goldner, age 93, began volunteering when she was 70. Undaunted and passionate, she gracefully greets people at this iconic Gold Coast estate where steel was once king and shipping was queen.

Docent Gladys Kolechinski expertly guided us through gardens and mansion with aplomb and humor. Her no nonsense approach and unlimited knowledge made for a delightful experience. Many docents are “school teachers, professors and actors,” says Angela Savino, volunteer coordinator. “All want to be docents, so they know how to act in front of a group.”

Both Gladys and Geraldine began as gardeners in the mid-50s when Old Westbury went public. “When they couldn’t do it anymore they came into the house,” Savino says. She solicits volunteers at garden places such as nurseries and visitors to Old Westbury, because the people there have a love of gardens.

“The people we do have are very hard to replace. It is a passion of theirs. They love the history, the gardens the mansion. They’re great and we couldn’t grow this place without them and their dedication.”


At Landcraft Environments, tropical plant growers to the trade, owners Dennis Schrader and Bill Smith show us around. Never were there more magical gardens than at Landcraft where tropicals mingle in warm weather with hardy ornamentals. Visually, it blends agriculture’s long rows and beds with formal design and bursting explosions of unusual perennials, shrubs, vines, grasses, seed pods and succulents. It is a horticultural shock wave!

How do they do it? “We’re designers,” says Dennis. “Always experimenting and mixing new things with different textures, colors. We trial a new plant for a year or two.” There are some self-seeders such as the Formosa Lily with tall, grand stems and pods that pop up just about anywhere, but there’s no doubt that the gardens are managed and planned. Formal gardens near the house transition into more natural fields of flowers ad shrubs with less pruning and more seeding in.

Arnold and Karen Blair enjoy their lives in peace and serenity 80 feet above the Nature Conservancy’s protected beach and salt marsh of Peconic Bay. Theirs is a woodland garden with several paths that amble through three-plus acres that went from wild to tame starting 25 years ago. Inspiration came from visiting other gardens on the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program. When they bought the densely wooded lot next to their house, a bulldozer created a path from top to bottom just to be able to get in there.

“It was a 25-year project of creating paths – a slow evolution,” says Arnold Blair. In the woods, all plants were planted and some transplanted while they figured out what worked.

Though a crew comes in for maintenance, Arnold says. “I do things I enjoy – pruning and rejuvenating some plants. We’re just lucky to have it. It’s been a passion for us both. For me it’s a creative outlet. We love sharing it with people who love gardens.”


Off to the Hyatt Place Long Island/East End where lemonade and cookies await!

DAY TWO
Hot and cold buffet breakfast at the Hyatt, then we're off to Yugen, a 20-acre Japanese-inspired garden covered with a rich carpet of moss in East Hampton. Bamboo groves among 31 designed areas with Asian sculpture enrich the gardens.

Peconic River Herb Farm is a destination in itself with gardens along the Peconic River, garden and home furniture and accessories, their home-grown herbs, annuals, perennials, shrubs, tropicals and trees and their own Salvation Spice Blends, as well as a homestead designed and built by owners Cris and Mike Spindler from a truckload of balsam fir.

Cris graciously extended the nursery hours to accommodate our arrival and time spent enjoying the riverfront gardens, shops and plants while happy bus trippers filled the bottom of the bus with on sale and discounted new-found treasures.



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published October 27, 2018

Photos to enlarge


Gathering at the Phipps mansion at Old Westbury Gardens, listed on the National Register of Historic Places; Julian Sparacino photo


Historic pergola and archway around West Pond at Old Westbury Gardens, Mary Jasch photo


Inside the historic archway, Old Westbury Gardens, Mary Jasch photo


Tibouchina in the walled perennial garden, Old Westbury Gardens, Mary Jasch photo


Dahlias, salvia, roses and zinnias color the late September walled garden at Old Westbury, Mary Jasch photo


Roxanne, Linda, Barbara and Judy with excellent tour guide Gladys Korchinski in the Phipps mansion, Old Westbury, Mary Jasch photo


Gorgeous detail in Mr. Phipp's study, Old Westbury Gardens, Mary Jasch photo


Geraldine Goldner, volunteer receptionist for 23 years since she was 70, Old Westbury Gardens, Mary Jasch photo


Santo de Bella, security and very helpful, Old Westbury Gardens, Mary Jasch photo


Lori and Alice with some of the group, including Edwin the bus driver, enjoying a delicious lunch at Cafe in the Woods, Old Westbury Gardens, Mary Jasch photo


Judy, Peg and Barbara at Cafe in the Woods, Old Westbury Gardens, Mary Jasch photo


Cafe in the Woods manager, Paul Umansky, Old Westbury Gardens, Mary Jasch photo


Who needs flowers? Golden pereskia, lampranthus, bromeliad, dyckia, agapanthus, selaginella at Landcraft Environments, Mattituck, Mary Jasch photo


Path through heavenly hydrangea, Formosa lily seed pods and Imperata 'Red Baron' to a restful tiki hut, Landcraft Environments, Mary Jasch photo


Tropical glory: Rex begonia 'Marmaduke' and Medinilla magnifica at Landcraft Environments, Mary Jasch photo


Dennis Schrader leads Peg, Karen and past a stream bed of forget-me-nots, bordered by sedum, Pennisetum 'Vertigo,' and gaura at Landcraft Environments, Mary Jasch photo


A more formal approach with boxwood and carpinus hedges, red castor bean, datura, canna and nicandra seed pods at Landcraft Environments, Mary Jasch photo


Julian and Colocasia gigantea 'Thailand Giant' at Landcraft Environments, Mary Jasch photo


Rill garden with Arctic willow, golden-leaf pokeweed, thyme and chair of tropical hardwood, Landcraft Environments, Mary Jasch photo


The Blair garden on Peconic Bay, Cutchogue, Mary Jasch photo


A restful spot 80 feet above the Bay, Blair Garden, Mary Jasch photo


Nature Conservancy beach below the Blair Garden's 80-foot slope, Mary Jasch photo


Hydrangea in the woods, Blair Garden, Mary Jasch photo


The gang soaking up sun, salt water and beach fronting the Blair Garden, Mary Jasch photo


View from the house to marsh, beach and bay, Blair Garden, Mary Jasch photo


Whispering bamboo and moss, Yugen, East Hampton, Mary Jasch photo


Conifer and moss garden, Yugen, East Hampton, Mary Jasch photo


Mountain laurel squirm like aliens on a sea of moss, Yugen, East Hampton, Mary Jasch photo


Woodland sculpture, Yugen, East Hampton, Mary Jasch photo


Herb boutique at Peconic River Herb Farm, Calverton, Mary Jasch photo


Inside Outside In, a unique garden shop, Peconic River Herb Farm, Mary Jasch photo


The house that Cris and Mike Spindler built, Peconic River Herb Farm, Mary Jasch photo


Wedding flowers, Peconic River Herb Farm, Mary Jasch photo


Ursula and Lee with fresh pickins at Peconic Rivr Herb Farm, Julian Sparacino photo


A happy shopper, Peconic River Herb Farm, Mary Jasch photo


Tough decisions for Karen and Roxanne, Mary Jasch photo

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