By Tessa Raebeck
Like a piece of artwork or a writer’s manuscript, a garden is never truly finished. As with all art, gardens can always evolve, changing with the seasons and naturally growing out of plans and designs, developing over time in a never-ending evolution.
Gardening is the art of the Earth, providing the willing and creative with another means of finding beauty in the mundane.
“All I know is, I don’t paint with a trowel or garden with a brush,” the late Robert Dash said in a video by P. Allen Smith Classics filmed in 2011, two years before his death, when asked about the connection between gardening and painting.
“They inform one another in ways that are very mysterious. It’s how the trowel is wielded or how the brush is wielded that informs the canvas or the Earth and there are no rules. And the only way you know how to do something in either of those arts is by doing it,” he added.
Mr. Dash, an artist, writer and gardener who died in September at age 82, “believed very much in gardens taking their time and developing over a period of time,” said Jack deLashmet, co-chair of Landscape Pleasures, which will honor Mr. Dash this year.
Hosted by the Parrish Art Museum, Landscape Pleasures includes three lectures by gardening and landscape design experts on Saturday, June 7, followed by a day of tours of some of Southampton’s most historic and remarkable gardens on Sunday, June 8.
The 2-acre Sagaponack garden of Mr. Dash, the Madoo Conservancy, which is open to the public, is included among the private estates on Sunday’s tour.
Established in 1967, the internationally known organic garden is a testament to Mr. Dash’s belief in the ever-evolving landscape. The grounds offer a tour across history, featuring Tudor, High Renaissance, early Greek, English, French and Asian influences.
Mr. Dash’s horticultural wisdom—and his commitment to the garden as a canvas that is ever changing and organic—will be celebrated and expanded on this weekend.
“We’ve always had excellent speakers,” said Mr. deLashmet of the annual garden tours, who believes this year’s Landscape Pleasures is the best yet. “The theme is the never finished garden, that gardens really evolve—and everybody will have a slight take on that,”
On Saturday, southern landscape design architect Paul Faulkner “Chip” Callaway, “an absolutely entertaining speaker,” according to Mr. deLashmet, will present, reflecting on his experience creating nearly 1,000 gardens, concentrating on period restoration work and designing historically relevant gardens.
Following Mr. Callaway, Martin Filler, the architecture critic for The New York Review of Books, and renowned for his more than 1,000 articles, essays and books on modern architecture, will celebrate the contributions of Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, the Listerine fortune heiress who was a patron of the arts with a dedicated interest in gardening, landscape design and the history of gardens.
A friend and confidante of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Ms. Mellon redesigned the White House Rose Garden. She died in March at the age of 103.
One of the world’s premiere garden designers, Arne Maynard, is the final speaker Saturday. Known for his large country gardens in Great Britain, the United States and across Europe, Mr. Maynard has the special “ability to identify and draw out the essence of a place, something that gives his gardens a particular quality of harmony,” according to the Parrish website.
Continuing the celebration of the changing nature of gardens, the self-guided tour Sunday features properties with rich histories behind them.
The garden of Perri Peltz and Eric Ruttenberg, an 1892 property originally called “Claverack,” is rarely open to the public.
Although it has evolved, the owners are always mindful of their home’s deep history; the original outhouses, bucolic buildings housing poultry, dairy and the stables, were, in a move that is sadly rare on the East End, married together and allowed to remain.
Designer Tory Burch will open up her home, a 1929 red brick Georgian House and 10-acre garden known as Westerly that is one of Southampton’s grandest estates.
“A great story about both restoring and finding old plants,” according to Mr. deLashmet, Bernard and Joan Carl, the owners an 8-acre estate called “Little Orchard,” restored original plantings while also bringing in new gardens.
“We did not want to be beholden to the past just for the past’s sake,” Ms. Carl told the Parrish.
The garden of Margaret and R. Peter Sullivan is an American style garden flanked by a new Palladian villa. The landscape offers a modern interpretation on standard ideas of gardening, with fruits and vegetables, an herb garden, and a vase decorated with poetry made by Mr. Dash.
As the late Mr. Dash once said, “Gardening is very much like setting a table—and if you can set a good dinner table, you can be a good gardener.”
A two-day event, Landscape Pleasures begins Saturday, June 7, at 8:30 a.m. at the Parrish Art Museum, 279 Montauk Highway in Water Mill. For a full calendar and more information, call (631) 283-2118 or visit parrishart.org.