Icon - Arrow LeftAn icon we use to indicate a rightwards action. Icon - Arrow RightAn icon we use to indicate a leftwards action. Icon - External LinkAn icon we use to indicate a button link is external. Icon - MessageThe icon we use to represent an email action. Icon - Down ChevronUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - CloseUsed to indicate a close action. Icon - Dropdown ArrowUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - Location PinUsed to showcase a location on a map. Icon - Zoom OutUsed to indicate a zoom out action on a map. Icon - Zoom InUsed to indicate a zoom in action on a map. Icon - SearchUsed to indicate a search action. Icon - EmailUsed to indicate an emai action. Icon - FacebookFacebooks brand mark for use in social sharing icons. flipboard Icon - InstagramInstagrams brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - PinterestPinterests brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - TwitterTwitters brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - Check MarkA check mark for checkbox buttons.
You are reading

10 Garden Ideas to Borrow from the Landscape at Silver Sands Motel in Greenport, NY

Search

10 Garden Ideas to Borrow from the Landscape at Silver Sands Motel in Greenport, NY

June 25, 2024

The Silver Sands Motel in Greenport, NY, opened in 1957 as a laidback motel that felt more like a beach home away from home than a fussy hotel. When the property changed hands a few years back, the new owners were keen to keep the family-oriented spirit of this beloved destination alive. “They wanted to honor what Silver Sands had been and try to retain that sense of nostalgia, while still creating a modern, comfortable destination for new travelers,” says Melissa Reavis, a landscape designer at Hollander Design, the landscape design firm tasked with updating the surrounding property.

Sitting at the end of a wooded road, Silver Sands is sited on the Peconic Bay along 1,400 feet of sandy beach. Having worked on many residential properties throughout the East End and the North Fork, Reavis and her team were well aware of the challenges of the coastal wetland location. “Out in Long Island there’s extreme deer pressure,” she says. “And this site had dense clay soil, a high water table, and salt winds.”

The Hollander Design team developed a new master plan that kept much of the original landscape’s spirit, but wove in more garden beds, planted predominantly with a native plant palette that supports local birds and pollinators. “We tried to help highlight that unique ecosystem that surrounds Silver Sands,” says Reavis. “And because we were so careful about what we brought in and that were reflective of the natural environment, the property is still fully maintained without the use of any chemicals, and minimal irrigation and intervention.”

Here are 10 lessons everyday gardeners can take away from this inspiring project:

Photography by John Musnicki, courtesy of Hollander Design.

1. Start with a site inventory.

In the research and planning stage, Reavis made sure to check out what plants were thriving on the property—and just beyond.
Above: In the research and planning stage, Reavis made sure to check out what plants were thriving on the property—and just beyond.

“We started out just by taking stock of what was there and what actually was surviving,” says Reavis. “In such a tough environment, you have to really go in with no ego and say, ‘What is already doing well?’ because that’s going to help ensure that whatever we plant can also survive.” Gardeners could do the same on their own property (and even on nearby yards and parks). 

2. Assess the water table.

A melange of grasses.
Above: A melange of grasses.

While gardeners often get their soil tested to learn its composition, Reavis says they’re often unaware of where they sit on the groundwater table. “As long as you know water isn’t within the first 24 inches of soil, then you have a dry site,” says Reavis. “At Silver Sands if we dug even 12 inches down, the holes would start to fill with water.” To determine where your land sits in relation to the water table, simply dig a hole. Because of the high water table, Reavis was inspired to plant rushes, which are accustomed to wet roots, in the perennial beds. “They’re a really beautiful native type of grass that I had never planted in a garden environment before, so it’s actually helped expand my own palette,” she adds.

3. Save the trees.

None of the mature oak and pine trees were cut down.
Above: None of the mature oak and pine trees were cut down.

With the exception of some dwarf spruces in the courtyard, Hollander Design left all the mature trees on the site. “I didn’t have to cut down a tree, which is almost unheard of for new construction,” says Reavis. “You walk onto that space and it feels like it’s been there forever because the trees are still there.” If you’re building new or renovating, work with your landscaper to preserve as many trees as you can.

4. Strengthen an indoor-outdoor connection.

Planters right outside some guest room doors.
Above: Planters right outside some guest room doors.

The hotel owners knew that the flow from the interior to exterior was key, so they shared the interior design plans with Hollander Design from the very start. “The room’s colors dictated some of the garden palette, especially within the private gardens,” says Reavis. “For instance, we would take some of the peaches that we were finding in the interiors and we would select an ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum because we knew it would come up in that same peach.”

5. Create invitations to enjoy the garden.

The hotel owner sourced many of the vintage outdoor furniture pieces throughout the property.
Above: The hotel owner sourced many of the vintage outdoor furniture pieces throughout the property.

In many places Reavis was replacing turf grass with planted beds, but she didn’t want guests to feel like the new landscape limited their ability to roam the property freely. “We placed chairs throughout those perennial beds, so those spaces feel accessible to guests,” she explains. “We wanted them to feel immersed in the space and that nothing was inaccessible to them.” 

6. Mulch with sand.

The beds are mulched with sand.
Above: The beds are mulched with sand.

“A lot of people don’t realize that sand is such a good mulch,” says Reavis. She chose to mulch with sand, in part, because it is delightful on bare toes (again, inviting guests into the garden). However, using sand as mulch has many other benefits, especially in a coastal environment. For one, sand doesn’t hold moisture at the top of the bed, instead it keeps moisture in the soil, encouraging deep root growth. It also prevents weed growth, and then even if weeds do grow in sand, they’re much easier to pull. 

7. Use plants to manage water issues.

Native beach grasses will help prevent erosion at the water’s edge.
Above: Native beach grasses will help prevent erosion at the water’s edge.

Reavis and her team observed how the property was experiencing erosion. “Stormwater was just running down the site—it wasn’t infiltrating fast enough,” says Reavis. So, Reavis removed turf grass, especially close to the water’s edge, and replaced it with a native fescue mix with some native wildflowers with a much deeper root system. Reavis says, “The more fibrous, dense root system helps slow the water’s movement down, preventing washouts.” Reavis also oversaw a large restoration of beach grass at the outer edges of the beachfront, leaving a section of sandy beach for guests.

8. Create a pollinator pathway within the site.

 Above: Beds planted with deer-resistant nepeta and echinacea create division between the beachside tables and invite pollinators into this section of the property.
Above: Beds planted with deer-resistant nepeta and echinacea create division between the beachside tables and invite pollinators into this section of the property.

Gardeners concerned with supporting pollinators may think of their property as a stop on a larger “pollinator pathway,” but at the Silver Sands site, Reavis went further: She imagined creating a pollinator path within the property by making sure pollinators’ favorite plants were always a short distance from one another. “We always try to plant milkweed and solidago, so that we know we have host plants and nectar plants for our local pollinators and we extend those plants throughout the site,” says Reavis. “We’re trying to get them moving through the entire area.”

9. Leave room for nostalgia.

One thing Reavis didn’t change? The iconic red geraniums in the flower boxes.
Above: One thing Reavis didn’t change? The iconic red geraniums in the flower boxes.

While Reavis used mostly native and climate-adapted plants, she wasn’t dogmatic about environmentally-sensitive choices. The window boxes outside guest rooms, for example, still have tomato red geraniums that have adorned the Silver Sands Motel for decades. Likewise, when Reavis saw that lilacs were thriving on the property, she left them because they are such a nostalgic plant that reflects the original era of the hotel.

10. Blur the boundaries.

An expansive view.
Above: An expansive view.

“Blur the line between your own property and what you’re viewing,” says Reavis. “Everything feels more gracious and expansive because we don’t have hedges dictating property lines.” Another way Reavis expanded the views was to plant more of what could be seen on neighboring lots.

See also:

(Visited 863 times, 863 visits today)
You need to login or register to view and manage your bookmarks.

Have a Question or Comment About This Post?

Join the conversation

v5.0