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Hamptons Life

Sep 10, 2018 10:50 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Horticultural Alliance Hosts Talk On Coastal Landscapes With Eric Groft

Sep 10, 2018 10:57 AM

Eric Groft, a renowned leader of the landscape architecture industry in ecological sensitivity and wetland restoration, is set to be the speaker at the Horticultural Alliance of the Hamptons’ annual Karish seminar on Sunday, September 16. As one of the principals of Oehme van Sweden, Mr. Groft has played a role in the creation of the New American Garden-style, which uses native grasses, perennials and bulbs to provide a year-round landscape.

The 43-year-old firm has designed projects for public and private spaces including the Federal Reserve Board Gardens, the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C., the Great Basin at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and 3.5 acres at the New York Botanical Garden, as well as several residences on the East End.

Oehme van Sweden was awarded the Perennial Plant Association’s 2018 Landscape Design Honor Award for work on an Atlantic Avenue residence in Amagansett that will be featured on the horticultural alliance’s tour preceding a lecture by Mr. Groft in Bridgehampton.

“The award is all about the uses and love for perennial plants that encourages us designers to use the flora effectively,” Mr. Groft said in a recent interview.

It’s the association’s highest honor, and Oehme van Sweden holds several of them already. Guests will have the opportunity to see it this weekend in Amagansett.

The Press: Tell us more about the estate that you’ll be giving a tour of before your lecture.

Eric Groft: It was an old farmhouse that was picked up from another spot in the Hamptons and brought to the property. Given where the farmhouse was placed between the ocean and a field, we were trying to draw from both dunes and farmland imagery in the landscape.

How will you incorporate that idea into your talk on Sunday, “Design on the Water: the Coastal Landscapes of Oehme van Sweden”?

I’ll be giving a lecture on designing coastal landscapes on waterfront properties. Everyone wants to be on the water and have seaside landscape gardens, but achieving a sustainable design can be challenging. The talk will include many of my stories from up and down the East Coast, from Florida, to Nantucket and Maine. Even though they all have a similar marine palette, it’s important to find and focus on that something special.

But the same plantings in multiple gardens—won’t they all look the same at some point?

It goes beyond the plantings. Landscape design is built on architectural design. We built an intimate courtyard with concrete to create landscape steps, and large pools of water for swimming and to accompany spas as well as just to look at. That coincides with the connected garden species that are native to the area and some that are not—like panicum grass and blooming shrubs like black-eyed Susans.

What we are trying to show is the essence of a place on the water—a blend between man and nature living on the water.

Your firm has experienced the loss of both of its founders, Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden, in recent years. Is the recognition of the award a sign that the firm is heading in the right direction?

We are carrying on the torch. We are growing and learning and taking on new frontiers the best that we can.

The cost to attend the Amagansett garden tour on Atlantic Avenue at 11 a.m., the lecture at the Bridgehampton Community House at 2 p.m., and the plant sale and reception at 3 p.m. on Sunday, September 16, is $125. Register at hahgarden.org or call 631-537-2223. Proceeds support Horticultural Alliance of the Hamptons’ scholarships, programs and public horticultural library.

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