According to Alexandra Munroe, every great garden needs a giant folly. And on the surface, the woodland walk sandwiched between her formal and naturalistic East Hampton landscaping doesn’t seem much like one.
But upon closer inspection, the cryptomeria, cypress and rhododendron are underplanted with a collection of Asian woodland plants, including a rare arisaema, and giant, prehistoric-looking elephant ears, which spill into a bamboo forest that backs up to the ocean.
“It’s a folly because we’re on the beach,” Ms. Munroe, the senior curator of Asian Art at the Guggenheim Museum, said last week during a telephone interview. “And there’s no such thing as a woodland walk on the beach.”
A combination of manicured and untamed that complements the circa-1928 house stretching across the property, the Alexandra Munroe and Robert Rosenkranz garden is one of six that will be featured on the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons’ 27th annual tour, “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” on Saturday.
Hundreds of plant enthusiasts and animal lovers alike will turn out for the tour, which will include the East Hampton-area gardens of Barrie Berg and Antonio Munoz, Dwyer and Michael Derrig, Jan and Randy Slifka, Peter Wilson and Scott Sanders, and Craig James Socia.
“The Wilson-Sanders garden is 5 acres and it’s kind of incredible. In a way, nicer than this, different than this,” Mr. Socia, who was the landscape designer for the project, said last week during a tour of his own garden. “There’s an Asian bent to the design. Not forced Asian, but there is a theme to it.”
The Slifka garden was designed by Eric Groft of Oehme, van Sweden. It marries the landscape architect’s signature use of native grasses with Mr. Slifka’s love of flowers, said the homeowner, who shares the house with his wife, Jan, their 15-year-old son, Joshua, and 4-year-old Wheaton terrier, Lucy, last week during a telephone interview. As a result, large color fields featuring more than 8,000 perennials, a lily pond, dahlia garden and a rose garden work around a traditional, gambrel-style house with a modern interior that seamlessly transitions between indoor and outdoor living, he said.
“She loves to play in the garden, play on the property,” Mr. Slifka said of Lucy. “I grew up with a family that was very much in love with nature and with gardens. Before I got on the property, 25 years ago, it was a thicket. We completely cleared it, brought in all the trees and created the whole landscape from nothing.”
The prospect of transforming 4½ acres of land sealed the deal for Ms. Munroe and Mr. Rosenkranz when they purchased their home in 1998.
“It was literally bramble,” she said, “But when we saw the house, when you walked into the house and you were literally at eye level, or should I say heart level, with the ocean’s horizon, it was incredible. The architect took great pains, you realize, to site the house so you’re in physical relationship with the ocean. It was really the ocean that attracted us, excited us, and the possibility of building the gardens.”
The couple constructed not just one, but 10 separate areas: the woodland walk, a cutting garden, cottage garden, rose bed, ornamental grass dunes, a parterre, croquet lawn, kitchen terrace, vegetable garden and an exuberant meadow hand-planted with more than 15,000 seed packets, according to property manager Robert .
Inspired by 18th-century Japanese screen paintings—particularly their abandon, abundance and wildness—there was nothing accidental about the meadow, according to Ms. Munroe.
“I am not a horticulturist, but I am a historian,” she said, “and I look to gardens as one of the greatest forms of art in the history of civilization. For me, the garden is a form of painting and a form of curating.”
For her, gardens are places of rejuvenation. They are places of culture and places of memory. Garden culture is what interests her and, as something of a Buddhist, they relax her, fueling her love for living creatures, including her 8-year-old chocolate lab, Chuko.
“She is the most wonderful dog in the world,” she said. “Of course, everyone’s dog is the most wonderful dog in the world. My dog is my fellow gardener. She’s out with me as I plant.”
“Gardens and dogs are wonderful companions,” she laughed.
The Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons will hold its 27th annual garden tour, “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” on Saturday, June 15, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., featuring six gardens in East Hampton. A cocktail reception will follow from 4 to 6 p.m. at the village home of Charles and Mary Jane Brock. Tickets are $75, or $175 for the tour and cocktail party, and include complimentary admission to the “Much Ado About Madoo” garden market sale from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Madoo Conservancy in Sagaponack. For more information, visit arfhamptons.org.