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Hamptons Life

May 14, 2018 11:12 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

East Hampton Gardens Flourish During Garden Conservancy Open Days

Hertenhof—designed by owner Peter van Hattum—in East Hampton was The Garden Conservancy’s premier location during the Open Days tours on Saturday.
May 14, 2018 11:12 AM

The residence is known as Hertenhof, or Deer Court in Dutch. Its Georgian style fits harmoniously in the historic Grace Estate section in Northwest Harbor. Hertenhof was The Garden Conservancy’s premier location during the Open Days tours of East Hampton private gardens on Saturday, May 12.

Since 1995, Open Days have been an opportunity for visitors to see incredible private landscapes across the United States. The Garden Conservancy added its “Digging Deeper” program in 2015 to encourage small groups of visitors to come together with gardening experts, landscape architects, plant collectors and artists. Hertenhof—at 17 Terry’s Trail—was showcased in the program Saturday.

“By making these private gardens open to the public, gardeners get to look at what others do,” Open Days regional representative Chip Rae said. “And if they are like me, you take what you learn and try to do it yourself in your own garden.”

Hertenhof is owned by famed Broadway actor Peter van Hattum. He played Rolf in the cast of “The Sound of Music” in the early 1960s. Mr. van Hattum is also known for his later career in interior design.

“This is where real people live—where they raise children on lots of wonderful open land,” Mr. van Hattum said as he walked along with Mr. Rae who was giving a group of 10 a private tour of the house and the garden. “It reminds me of my home in Holland, where I grew up.”

He lived at Hertenhof with his partner, Harold Simmons, a former senior vice president of Parish-Hadley interior design firm. The two men later started their own business, Van Hattum & Simmons, in 1987. After living and working in Manhattan for many years, they designed a home for themselves on the 6-acre property in the Grace Estate, which was mostly designated as a nature preserve in the 1980s. It was completed in 2001 by builder Dick Swanson. The nearly 5,000-square-foot home has six bedrooms and five and a half baths.

“Harold was an avid gardener. He grew up on a cotton plantation in Mississippi. He had the green thumb. I had more of green index finger,” Mr. van Hattum said of his late partner who died in 2014.

They entertained often. Every room in the back of the house had double doors that open onto a terrace facing the garden. Most of the acreage skews southeast from the house and is dense with woodland and fruit trees. More than a century ago, part of the Grace Estate was an orchard. Mr. van Hattum likes to spend his mornings reading in the pool guest house in the backyard garden. It’s complete with a heated Gunite pool.

“The garden was a work in progress … Deer come in and often eat the hostas; they practically come in and eat $100 bills out my pocket,” Mr. van Hattum laughed while pointing to a chewed up foliage next to the peonies. “After we gave them a corridor to go to the front yard instead … a family of deer come every night to graze.”

Hertenhof is currently on the market, listed by Corcoran Group Real Estate for $3,975,000, down from $4,300,000 million last summer.

“The sale fell through recently, and I couldn’t be happier,” Mr. van Hattum said. “They might just have to carry me out.”

In addition to the small group who visited Hertenhof, hundreds of people flocked to four scenic gardens in East Hampton as part of Open Days. At 18 Sayres Path, Biercuk & Luckey Garden has four seasons of foliage, featuring woodland plants, flowering shrubs and understory trees. In a sunny corner, what appears to be a pond with waterfalls and artisan stonework is actually a cleverly disguised pool.

The Garden of Dianne B. at 86 Davids Lane may be only an acre in size but it sure has a lot going on. It features layer after layer of ever-changing gardens. Twisted trees, weepers and odd-looking woodland plants juxtapose charming bronze, wood and marble sculptures. Owner Dianne Benson, a former Madison Avenue fashionista, classifies herself as a “garden stylist.”

“Right now some of my dear jack-in-the-pulpits have just emerged. It’s filled with pink petals and blooming magnolia tree. The tulips are opening, and there are lots of daffodils,” Ms. Benson said. “What is the point of a garden if no one really sees it?”

Ms. Benson is known for her weaving textures, accessories, color, patterns and layered shapes that she learned from her career in fashion. It’s all detailed in her gardening book from the 1990s, “Dirt,” and her current blog, “Dirtier.”

The Glade Garden is Abby Jane Brody’s playground for collecting plants. The property at 44 Glade Road features rare and unusual ornamental trees, shrubs, and shade-loving perennials.

And the Levy-Barnett Garden at 31 Woodbine Drive features a landscape of ornamental grasses, drought-tolerant shrubs, perennials and trees. Container gardens full of self-seeding plants add a colorful twist to the no-lawn and no-irrigation garden.

The Garden Conservancy will host additional Open Days in Suffolk County on select Saturdays: May 26 in East Hampton including Mr. Rae’s own home, June 2 in Cutchogue and Flanders, June 30 in Mt. Sinai, July 7 in Jamesport, Mattituck, and Shelter Island Heights, and July 14 in Bridgehampton and East Hampton.

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