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Gardeners Showcase

Francis Halstead adds flowers to a railing in the Vanderbilt Mansion courtyard.

Francis Halstead is one of 11 garden designers and local nurseries taking part in the third annual Gardeners Showcase at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport through September, along with the Vanderbilt’s corps of volunteer gardeners. He is the first participant, however, to plant flowers of his own creation in some of the Vanderbilt Mansion gardens and terraces.

Hybrid Brugmansia or Angel’s Trumpet, in the Vanderbilt Mansion Sundial Garden

Halstead, who started Flowers by Friends in 2012 in Levittown, is a self-trained horticulturalist. “I went to Farmingdale State College for a single semester,” he said, “but most of what I’ve learned has been self-taught. I first became interested in gardening when I worked for a grower in Colorado. I’ve put myself into situations where I could also learn from experts in the field.”

Some of those experts were his colleagues at Hicks Nurseries in Westbury, where he became lead tropical flower grower.

While working in Colorado, Halstead also became interested in exotic plants, including ethnobotanicals, specifically Brugmansia. (Ethnobotany is the study of how people of a particular culture and region make use of indigenous plants.) Many of the hybrids he planted in the Sundial Garden are Brugmansia, flowering ornamental plants. They are also called Angel’s Trumpets for their large, fragrant flowers.

“When I saw what the leading Brugmansia growers were producing, I became fascinated,” he said. “I was inspired when I imagined what the hybrids would look like in a flower show. That’s what really drives me. At Flowers by Friends, we design flower shows using new hybrids of rare exotic plants. We want to educate people about their importance.”

In learning about horticulture and building his business, Halstead said he was guided by a philosophical quote from the singer and rapper Kevin Gates: “Anything lost can be found again, except for time wasted. A vision without action is merely a dream.”

Jim Munson, the Vanderbilt’s operations supervisor, who created and oversees the Gardeners Showcase, said, “Francis’s hybrids in the Sundial Garden are in full bloom now. People will not see these flowers anywhere else because, through botany, he has cross-pollinated different flowers to create completely new floral hybrids. His creations are utterly spectacular.”

Halstead also has planted all the flowerpots around the restored saltwater pool and created a display for the fountain in the alcove beneath the staircase to the pool. In addition, he brought in Nelson Demarest, the head garden designer at Hicks Nursery for the last 40 years. Together they created planters for all the balconies in the Mansion courtyard, Munson said.

To produce hybrid flowers, Halstead chooses the flowers he wants to cross-pollinate. “Then, you have to cross them depending on which traits you would want to see in your new seedlings,” he said. “After that, you let the seeds develop, harvest them, name them by the crosses, and plant them.”

Once the plants start to develop, he picks out the ones he no longer wants and grows the others. It takes three years before a Brugmansia cultivar is stable enough to be named. Halstead said few people outside of the plant-growing community know about Brugmansia:

“I sell them through flower shows. That is my real business. Growing plants and creating art with them.”

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport. For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

Photos by Jim Munson

Above, the Vanderbilt Mansion Terrace Garden and quatrefoil fountain with Northport Bay in the background. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum
Transformed gardens on view through September

Eleven local nurseries and garden designers, plus the Museum’s corps of volunteer gardeners are taking part in the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum’s third annual Gardeners Showcase.

They redesigned and transformed garden areas, planted new perennials, annuals, shrubs, and trees  — and enhanced the beauty and ambience of William K. Vanderbilt II’s Eagle’s Nest mansion and estate, home of the Museum. The stunning results are on view through September. For now the Vanderbilt has reopened its grounds only – not its buildings – to visitors on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

All visitors are asked to wear a mask when unable to maintain 6-feet distancing from others.

“We are grateful for the enthusiastic response of local landscaping and gardening professionals who have volunteered their talents to beautify the historic estate,” said Elizabeth Wayland-Morgan, executive director of the Vanderbilt.

“These floral artisans, as well as our own veteran corps of accomplished volunteer gardeners, have invested their time, labor, and resources. Their enhancements will be enjoyed by thousands of summer visitors,” she added.

Jim Munson, the Museum’s operations supervisor, who created the event, said, “We thought the pandemic might prevent this year’s showcase,” he said. “However, thanks to the undying support and incredible talents of these designers, the showcase has become a reality.

“Many of the gardeners have been affected financially and personally by this health crisis, yet here they all are, once again selflessly giving their time, donations and incredible talents to the Vanderbilt to make it a better place for all. Simply sitting on a bench, listening to the birds and taking in the beauty of the gardens is an absolute gift,” he said.

Participating designers, identified by signage at showcase sites, are: Carlstrom Landscapes, Inc. (Terrace Pool); Centerport Garden Club (Rose Garden), de Groot Designs, Inc. (front entrance); Designs by Nelson (saltwater pool and balcony planters); Flowers by Friends (Sun Dial Garden and Saltwater Pool); Gro-Girl Horticultural Therapy (Sensory Garden); Haven on Earth Garden Design (Planetarium Garden); Mossy Pine Garden & Landscape Design (Clover Leaf Garden); Pal-O-Mine Equestrian J-STEP Program (Sensory Garden); Trimarchi Landscaping & Design (Courtyard Gardens), Tropic Al (Bell Tower/Bridge Garden); Vanderbilt Volunteer Gardeners (Memorial Garden, Columns Garden, Tent Gardens & Vegetable Garden).

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport. The admission fee to tour the grounds is $14 per carload, members are free. Tickets are available online only. No tickets will be sold at the gate. Visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org to order.

Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport will host its third annual Gardeners Showcase during spring and summer 2020. The museum invites local nurseries and garden designers to show off their skills and creativity in one of the gardens that grace the 43-acre waterfront estate, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Spots are still available for this year’s showcase, and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Participants, in return for their effort and contribution, will receive:

 • Signage that identifies their business, at each garden showcase site. This signage will be viewed by the more than 100,000 anticipated Vanderbilt visitors during the spring, summer and fall.

  Recognition on the Vanderbilt website and publicity on its social-media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram).

• Publicity through news releases sent to regional media.

• A one-year Associate Membership to the Vanderbilt Museum.

 To secure a spot in this year’s Gardeners Showcase, or to obtain more information, please contact Jim Munson, the Vanderbilt Museum’s operations supervisor, at 631-379-2237 or at [email protected]

An allium blooms in the mansion terrace garden.
Transformed gardens on view through September

Fourteen local nurseries and garden designers are taking part in the Vanderbilt Museum’s second annual Gardeners Showcase this year. Redesigning and transforming garden areas, planting new perennials, annuals, shrubs and trees and enhancing the beauty and ambiance of William K. Vanderbilt II’s historic Eagle’s Nest mansion and estate, home of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum were all part of this year’s design plan.

The beautiful results were unveiled on June 1. The showcase runs through Sunday, Sept. 29. 

“I am grateful for the enthusiastic response from the landscaping and gardening community to volunteer their talents to beautify this historic estate,” said Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Vanderbilt.

A view of this year’s sensory garden by the planetarium

“These floral artisans, as well as our own veteran corps of accomplished volunteer gardeners, have invested their time, labor and resources. Their enhancements will be enjoyed by more than 30,000 visitors this summer. We hope to continue this collaboration for many years,” he added.

 Participating designers, identified by signage at showcase sites, are Carlstrom Landscapes Inc.; Centerport Garden Club; de Groot Designs Inc.; Dina Yando Landscape & Garden Design; Gro-Girl Horticultural Therapy; Haven on Earth Garden Design; Landscapes by Bob Dohne Inc.; Marguerite Kohler Designs; Mossy Pine Garden & Landscape Design; Pal-O-Mine Equestrian J-STEP Program; The Compleat Garden; Trimarchi Landscaping & Design; and Vanderbilt Volunteer Gardeners.

Visitors to the showcase pay only general admission to the museum which is $8 adults, $7 students and seniors, and $5 children 12 and under.  There is no additional fee to see the gardens.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport. Hours are Saturdays, Sundays and Tuesdays from noon to 4 p.m. until June 23, and open daily from June 24 to Sept. 2 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

Photos courtesy of Vanderbilt Museum

CENTERPORT: The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum will host its second annual Gardeners Showcase, The Gardens of Eagle’s Nest, during spring and summer 2019. The museum invites local nurseries and garden designers to show off their skills and creativity in one of the gardens that grace the 43-acre waterfront estate, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Spots are still open for several showcases and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. In return for their effort and contribution, participants will receive signage that identifies their business at each garden showcase site; recognition on the Vanderbilt website and publicity on its social-media platforms; publicity through news releases sent to regional media; and a one-year Associate Membership to the Vanderbilt Museum.

To secure a spot in this year’s Gardeners Showcase, or to obtain more information, please contact Jim Munson, the Vanderbilt Museum’s operations supervisor, at 631-379-2237 or at [email protected]

Photos from Vanderbilt Museum

STATELY ELEGANCE: The beautiful landscape at the entrance to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium welcomes visitors.

Throughout the summer, visitors to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport will see the spectacular results of its first Gardeners Showcase.

A call went out at the beginning of the year inviting local nurseries and garden designers to “bring back the gardens.” In May, local nurseries, landscapers and garden designers used their artistry to transform 10 gardens on the grounds of the 43-acre waterfront estate of William K. Vanderbilt, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the last remaining Gold Coast estates on the North Shore of Long Island. 

“I am grateful for the enthusiastic response from the landscaping and gardening community to volunteer their talents to beautify this historic estate,” said Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Vanderbilt Museum.

The new gardens were established at the main entrance gates, in front of the planetarium, the mansion courtyard, the Wishing Well and back terrace using boxwoods, yews, perennials, herbs, annuals, topiaries, grasses and more. Existing gardens, including the ones with water features, were spruced up as well. 

JUST TROTTING ALONG: Above, a topiary/sensory garden designed by members of the Pal-O-Mine Equestrian J-STEP Program and Gro Girl Horticultural Therapy is located in front of the Planetarium.

One of the more popular gardens is the sensory garden located in front of the Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium. A collaboration between Gro Girl Horticultural Therapy and Pal-O-Mine Equestrian J-STEP (Job Security Through Equine Partnership), it features a topiary horse as well as rosemary, lavender, marigolds and lamb’s ear. The garden also recycles Christmas trees (with branches removed) to construct teepee-like structures for climbing, flowering vines. The goal of the garden is “to arouse the senses and to evoke positive feelings.”

“These floral artisans, as well as our own veteran corps of accomplished volunteer gardeners, have invested their time, labor and resources. Their enhancements will be enjoyed by more than 30,000 visitors this summer. We hope to continue this collaboration for many years,” Reinheimer said. 

Showcase participants include Gro Girl Horticultural Therapy of Greenlawn, Pal-O-Mine Equestrian J-STEP Program of Islandia, Sacred Gardens of Center Moriches, Dina Yando Landscape & Perennial Garden Design/North Service Nursery of Centerport, Landscapes by Bob Dohne of Greenlawn, Carlstrom Landscapes of Rocky Point, Mossy Pine Garden & Landscape Design of Greenlawn, Centerport Garden Club, Joe deGroot Designs of Centerport, Mother Earth’s Landscape & Nursery of East Northport and Vanderbilt Volunteer Gardeners. Each group is identified by signage at its Garden Showcase site. The event will run through Sept. 30. 

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport. To see the gardens, visitors pay only general admission: $8 adults; $7 seniors/students (age 62-plus or student ID); $5 children age 12 and under; children age 2 and under, free. For hours and more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

Photos courtesy of Vanderbilt Museum