Since the late 1800’s, the Hamptons has been the Big Apple’s summer retreat. Today it is the playground of America’s rich and famous. Among the vast ocean beach dunes and the bucolic backcountry meadows, grand and rambling traditional shingle homes rub fence lines with dynamic postmodern properties. Price tags read like phone numbers and property sizes can be equally colossal. Here it is said, that too much of a good thing is about right! While an average suburban home in New Zealand is unlikely to have space for sweeping driveways, sunken tennis courts, multiple entertaining patios, lane pools and associated pool houses, the relaxed yet manicured, coastal look of the Hamptons can still work in any garden. - Check out How to Create a Hampton's Style Home for home interior tips
Inspiration may range from boxy resort ambience to European country atmosphere –sometimes on a single property. Yet whatever the style, contemporary Hampton gardens call for a park-like structure, with less maintenance and more open spaces. Planting is simple, uncluttered and symmetrical with cohesive tiers of green; groomed lawns, specimen trees (deciduous for a true northern hemisphere feel) and grouped splashes of flowering highlights. Warm colours to spring forward, whites and blues to visually stretch the horizon. Colours or plants can be used to link the various garden areas. For classic Hampton’s flora, think hydrangeas; orchids, azalea’s and gardenias.
The public edge of a property is where decisions on privacy and seclusion need to be made. On exposed sites, solid perimeter fences or walls may increase wind intensity. Where practical a clipped shelter-hedge of native trees and shrubs can soften hard-lines and absorb nature’s sting. Hedging usually proves cheaper than fence building. Privet is a favourite hedge in the Hamptons, it is considered a weed in Aotearoa. Native alternatives like corokia, pittosporums or griselenia, can be shaped into luxuriant, formal hedges. For a tighter Hampton’s feel, there is cypress and Japanese holly. Espaliered fruit trees along fence lines is an option too. If a view is present, considerations should be made about how planting will affect the outlook. Low, sculpted hedges or grasses with mix height plantings can create an arrival sequence that frames the entry path while gently guiding guests to the front porch - common to traditional Hampton homes.
Ideally, gardens follow the contours of the landscape. Low walls can help transition through landforms and create split levels between lawns and garden rooms. Dry stone and sleeper walls enhance the feeling of naturalness when building garden beds or retaining. Distinguish primary paths from secondary access ways with solid surfaces. The path less-taken might use loose previous settings like stepping stones with crushed shells and pebbles. In high traffic zones, concrete hardscape offers flexibility and a resilient surface. Stamped concrete can be used to simulate slate, stone, brick or flagstone in walls and paths.
Progression between formal tiled areas around a pool or dining zone and open relaxed spaces can be easily achieved with large-format pavers. A mid-tone paving in a pale- or mid-grey will complement the garden’s flowering aspects.
Boxwood (buxus) is still the most popular shrub in America, sculpted into balls they provide symmetry, shape and visual breaks and when potted they are perfect for framing stairways. Potted plants allow greater flexibility of use and on restricted sites they can be employed to establish different height levels and ordered arrangements. Try repurposing some vintage pots, sand them back then whitewash or painted grey.
Life in the Hamptons is bookended by entertaining and engagement with the landscape. Wraparound verandas connecting the interior with the outdoors are a common feature of traditional Hampton’s homes. Alfresco entertaining spaces typically mimic the relaxed interior décor providing a sense of continuity that leads the eye outside, extending the feeling of space. Wicker is synonymous with the Hamptons aesthetic and white, wicker furniture conjures a beachy feel. Natural themes like sky, ocean and soft sunset hues inform the furnishing and accessory palettes. Additional decor touches like simple cushions, throws in the winter and, colourful decorative rugs will create dynamics that will tie the interior with all-seasons outdoor areas.
Hampton’s gardens require maintenance to retain their neat, ordered aesthetic but for those who love clean lines, the options and the rewards outweigh the effort. As with any landscape project the success of this style depends on careful planning. The size of a property, soil types and exposure to wind and sun will determine how much and what can be achieved.
Contact a local Zones landscape specialist to find out how you can create a touch of the Hamptons in your garden today.
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