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Feel Good with a Garden Walk

There are so many ways that a relaxing stroll through a garden makes you feel good. Gardens can revive your spirits from the scent of a rose to the joy of spotting a colorful butterfly while listening to birdsong and the occasional rush of a gentle breeze - one of nature’s best lullabies. The fresh dewy grass, trickling water, the crunch of gravel paths underfoot, and the heady perfume of blossoms is calming, uplifting, and evokes a sense of tranquility

Courtesy of Old Westbury Gardens

Spending a day at Old Westbury Gardens in the Hamptons with Tours of Distinction is two experiences in one because a trip here combines a visit to a magnificent garden and a beautifully appointed mansion with the added feeling of being in the English countryside right in the middle of Long Island!

A Glimpse of the English Countryside
Old Westbury Gardens, listed on the National Register of Historic Places is the former home of  John S. Phipps, a friend of Andrew Carnegie and Director of the United States Steele Corporation and his wife Margarita, whose father owned Grace Shipping Lines.  The main house on the property, completed in 1906, by the British architect, George A. Craw was built as an English Restoration-style manor house.  This stunning manor house sits majestically on 200 sprawling acres of formal gardens, landscaped grounds, woodlands, ponds, and lakes.

This masterfully preserved 20th-century mansion is filled with priceless antiques and furnishings. Walking through the house recalls the life of the landed gentry in the Edwardian period that lived in the English countryside. This feeling is evoked throughout the estate because Margarita Grace Phipps was from the United Kingdom. Upon their marriage, John promised Margarita a country house in America in the style of the great houses of England so she wouldn’t be homesick.

Courtesy of Old Westbury House

Entering the front hall of the house, visitors are immersed in an atmosphere of magnificence with each room offering its own special charm. Rooms of special interest include the west porch where afternoon tea was often served, the red ballroom with its tall windows and French doors, and the White Drawing Room with its beautiful 18th-century silver accents and decor. The art collection of the house is amazing with originals by Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsboro, and John Singer Sargent.

Courtesy Westbury Garden - Scott Lucas

The Gardens
Visitors enter the garden through wrought iron gates that were designed by Robert Backwell in the early 1700s that have gold-plated faces on both sides of Janus, the classical Roman God of beginnings and transition. 

The garden is set between the West Pond with its formal landscaping and shaded walk and East Lake with ephemeral wildflowers that bloom amid birch and evergreen trees.  A highlight of  East Lake is the 18th century Temple of Love and swimming pool.  One of the best views of the gardens, specimen trees, the Temple of Love, and East Lake is from the South Terrace. From the West Terrace visitors will see weeping willow and birch trees that flank a corinthian colonnade whose centerpiece is a terra cotta statue of the Greek goddess Diana. From the colonnade, visitors will see a classic reflecting pool.

Courtesy of Old Westbury House

Walking through the gates visitors stroll on a path known as the Linden Alee because it is bordered by linden trees on both sides. This path leads to the walled garden that is maintained in memory of Margarita Phipps. This colorful garden of delphiniums, phlox, and salvia is punctuated with roses, bulbs, and annuals that provide a variety of seasonal displays. Look for the interplay of repeating colors, forms, and textures on the upper and lower terraces all the way to the lily pond.

Courtesy Old Westbury House

A stroll along the arbor covered primrose path that is interspersed with pink azaleas and forget-me-nots lead guests to a geometric series of rose beds edged with Japanese holly. Each parterre contains a different species of hybrid tea roses. The color scheme of the rose garden is based on those preferred by Margarita. Surrounded by a sea of pink roses it is easy to see why Margarita liked this beautiful pale pink palette. 

Courtesy Old Westbury House

In the late spring, the lilac walk, Margarita’s favorite, is fragrant as well as beautiful. The lilac walk opens up to the walled garden that is notable for its variety of artfully placed blossoms making this garden a three-season feast for the eyes. Also on the grounds is a thatched cottage that was given to Margarita’s only daughter, Peggy when she was ten years old. This child’s playhouse is modeled after country cottages found in the English countryside and has an authentic thatched roof. 

Courtesy Old Westbury House

The South Alee is a perfect vision of the elegance of symmetry. It begins at the end of the south lawn and is bordered by a hedge of hemlock with dogwood and European linden trees artfully interspersed. This avenue leads to a section of American linden trees and gates with their elegant symbols of hunting.

A tour of the house and gardens with Tours of Distinction is the perfect way to unwind in the fresh air and enjoy the beauty of nature that is close to home.