Secret Gardens in the Hamptons


Coming up this weekend is the much anticipated Parrish Art Museum Landscape Pleasures Garden Tour. The theme this year is COLOR and each garden represents that idea with cascading blooms of every variety and in every hue of the rainbow. A symposium begins on Saturday, June 13 with designer Isaac Mizrahi and interior designer Charlotte Moss at 9:00 a.m. Later that night it's over to the home of Mica Ertegun for an exclusive cocktail party (I'll be there and promise to share the scoop as well as fun photos). On Sunday, June 14 the tour of six exclusive Southampton estates begins bright and early at 10:00 a.m. Luckily I had the opportunity to again be invited by the event organizers at the Parrish to get an early peek of one of the tour gardens at the home of Betty and Virgil Sherrill.

You can find just about anything in Southampton and at the home of Betty and Virgil Sherrill you can explore a truly lovely ‘Secret Garden’. The unique property features a view of Agawam Lake and the only rolling hill in Southampton Village upon which is a traditional-style home, completing the pastoral setting are various gardens that have been over 50-years in the making. With tender, loving care Berry Sherrill, who laughed and said that she takes off her garden gloves from time to time because “I like to feel the dirt,” has planted, cultivated, and enjoyed the beauty of her gardens. Filled with blooming white azaleas, over 75,000 white and yellow daffodils that sound the call of early spring, a blazing red azalea that stands boldly between the crepe myrtle and ferns near the Koi Pond, and so much more this is a garden filled with joy and wonder where even weeds, the Sweet Rocket with its purple flowers in particular, are enjoyed.

Petite brick pathways were laid over the decades by Mrs. Sherrill as she expanded her gardens that had been completely bare in the beginning. “There was nothing here, not even a blade of grass, when we moved in over 50 years ago,” she laughed. Joined by her son Stephen, she began the transformation from vast emptiness to sprawling lushness by adding the azaleas near the house and then further onto the property. Over time they have all grown into towering specimens which she is currently under planting this season.

Her husband Virgil and daughter Ann, along with many close friends, supervised the process and gifted her with trees, bushes, and other blooming wonders over the years to add to the thriving splendor. A native of New Orleans, Mrs. Sherrill loves crepe myrtle and on the property you’ll find species with distinctive bark patterns. Other favorites of the charming hostess are her late blooming dogwood (Cornus kousa), magnolias, oak and willow trees, dwarf Japanese maples, and viburnum which line the driveway and are dotted throughout the property.

There is nothing formal about Mrs. Sherrill’s gardens and she likes them that way, “I always wanted a natural looking garden.” Fields of lily of the valley and daylilies lead to strikingly beautiful peonies in the only ‘formal’ garden near the covered side brick patio, known as “Betty’s Folly” to the family, overlooking the hill and Agawam Lake. Beyond that are clusters of towering lilacs – the fragrance from the double French purples is nothing less than intoxicating – and the cutting and vegetable gardens. Never one for ordering flowers, Mrs. Sherrill prefers to cut her own especially lily of the valley which can be found in numerous vases and containers throughout the Sherrill’s equally lovely home.

On the tour guests will have a chance to explore the paths and enjoy the beauty of a garden brimming with beauty and quite a few surprises from a “Tea House” to whimsical sculptures and of course thousands, upon thousands of dazzling blooms.

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