Parrish Landscape Campaign: A Community Project - 27 East

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Parrish Landscape Campaign: A Community Project

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author on May 8, 2012

Not everyone can afford a piece of museum-quality artwork. But for as little as the cost of a few reproduction lithograph posters, art-minded East Enders can purchase living sculpture—a tree or a shrub—at the new Parrish Art Museum site in Water Mill.

The museum and most of its contents will move from its Southampton Village home to put down new roots at a scenic field in Water Mill before October. But the move is not just about artwork, or the bricks and mortar needed for the 34,500-square-foot museum building. With the new 14-acre property on Montauk Highway in Water Mill comes the need to plant trees, shrubs, grasses, plants and flowers. Thus the idea for the Parrish Art Museum’s “Landscape Campaign” was born.

The landscaping initiative serves several key purposes, according to Parrish Art Museum Director Terrie Sultan. Natural landscaping will certainly complement the new structure, designed by architects Herzog & de Meuron and currently under construction. But there’s more to the plan than simple aesthetics.

“We want everyone in this community to feel they have a stake in this,” Ms. Sultan said during an interview last month at her office at the museum on Jobs Lane in Southampton Village. “People love gardens and the landscape here. This new 14-acre park is for the community. We want everybody to love it and feel a part of it.”

And what better way to feel a part of the first museum built on the East End in the last 100 years

than to purchase a tree or shrub, which is planned to stand on the site for years to come.

Plantings began at the Water Mill property during the last weekend in April. In total, there is a need for more than 1,000 trees and shrubs at the new site.

The price tag for individual tree and shrub donations ranges on the low end from $30 for a 5- to 7-pound hybrid poplar container to the high end at $2,225 for a 5- to 6-foot northern catalpa. Individuals can choose from a variety of trees and shrubs for purchase, including northern catalpas (priced at $1,040 and $2,225), London planes (from $415 to $1,025), sweetgum ($340 and $520), red oak ($275 and $440), swamp white oak (from $275 to $770), gray birch (from $82 to $462), hybrid poplar (from $30 to $71), staghorn sumac (from $52 to $138), juniper (from $105 to $193) and sassafras ($40 each).

All donations will be purchased from local vendors, according to Doug Reed, a principal at Reed Hilderbrand, the Massachusetts-based firm responsible for the landscape architecture.

Ms. Sultan was quick to point out that most of the work on the new site is being sourced locally as well.

“Almost everything we are doing here is local. We bought the materials locally, and we are hammering and sawing locally,” she said. “It is something we do, and those working on the project do, with very deep pride.”

Last month, Mr. Reed wrote about the philosophy behind the landscaping at the Water Mill site.

“The planting design of the museum’s new home evokes those familiar and memorable landscape features of Long Island’s East End—its meadows, hedgerows, scrub oak woodlands, and wetlands—which have provided inspiration and subject matter for artists over two centuries,” he wrote during an email exchange. “In doing so, the new building, with its collections, and the site will unite art and nature into the visitor experience in a palpable way. This palette of native trees, shrubs, grasses, and perennials will provide a rich habitat for nesting and migratory birds.”

According to the Parrish website, the landscape is meant to “evoke the heritage of the East End.”

“The site will be reshaped into a meadow with grasses and native wildflowers, rising toward an oak and birch woodland at the northern boundary. A special feature of the new design is the creation of public areas for contemplation and social interaction. Conceived as a single, integrated work, the architecture and landscape will offer the public a unified and cohesive experience year-round,” the website said.

The new Parrish Art Museum will include parking at the back edge of the property in a zone defined by a cedar hedgerow on the north and edged by grey birch poplars, and viburnum on the south edge, Mr. Reed reported. White oaks and red maples will provide a shady canopy over the parking area, he said.

Additionally, native locust and catalpa trees shade the pathways through the meadow that link the parking to the museum’s entrance, according to Mr. Reed.

Keeping the landscape in line with a sustainable philosophy is important, according to Ms. Sultan.

“We want it to be visually beautiful but also useful,” she said.

In addition to the trees and shrubs, the landscaping design includes a wetland meadow and water garden.

“The scheme incorporates native species of wildflowers and grasses found in the wet meadows and upland meadows indigenous to this region of Long Island (little blue stem, bee balm, Queen Anne’s lace),” Mr. Reed wrote. “Species of shrubs and perennials that grow in wet habitats are used in the swales, or drainage ditches, that collect and manage stormwater runoff from the parking areas (sedges, irises, Joe Pye weed). This solution does not pipe all drainage underground, but instead makes the system for water’s collection, cleaning, and infiltration into the ground supply a visible part of the visitor’s experience of the site.”

The site will also feature lots of high grasses and other low-water plants, such as switchgrass, a variety of tall fescues, St. John’s wort, milkweed and lupine, among others, Ms. Sultan reported.

“We chose things that won’t need to be manicured or watered as much,” she said. “We don’t want a team of people out there with manicure scissors.”

“The landscape is absolutely designed to reflect our landscape and our culture here on the East End; it couldn’t be a more perfect marriage,” she continued. “I love what we are doing here and want everybody else to be as excited as I am—for everybody to love it and to feel a part of it.”

To learn more about the Parrish Art Museum’s “Landscape Campaign,” visit or contact Eliza Rand at 283-2118, ext. 24 or by email at

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