All About Hamptons Landscape Design and Trends with an Expert from Groundworks
Find out what clients want most right now, the perks of Crape Myrtles, and much more.
The Hamptons is one of the most beautiful places in the country, even the world. And its estates are next level. East Hampton-based Groundworks Landscaping Inc. has created some of the most exquisite landscapes in the area from the ground up. Founded in 2002 by partners Kim Hren, Linda Silich, and Andy Silich, the team brings a special understanding of the Hamptons to produce outdoor spaces their clients love.
With years of experience designing and maintaining landscapes, co-founder Linda Silich holds a wealth of knowledge. Taking the time in this busy season to give you the low-down on all things Hamptons landscape design, Silich has ample insight to share.
Tell us the story of Groundworks. What inspired you and the other co-founders to create this landscape design firm?
In the spring of 2002, Kim Hren wanted to start her own landscape company so the three future partners mapped out a five-year plan of how we would merge our unique talents and start our venture. Kim had her design degree from Cobleskill, vast horticultural knowledge, and design acumen. As a Wittenberg University graduate, I had a marketing and sales background and some experience in design with Kim. Finally, Andy, a Penn State University Business grad, would handle the financial aspects of running the new corporation. On July 5th, we sat on our screened-in porch and decided to take the leap.
In the following weeks, we strategized on a company name and logo, along with numerous decisions required for a new entrepreneurial venture. Collectively, we chose Groundworks Landscaping to be the name and on July 24th, 2002 the company was officially incorporated.
What do people want most in their outdoor spaces right now? How was this different in a pre-COVID world?
Since COVID, the most requested spaces are backyard areas to entertain and play in. Some of the trends we are seeing now are pickleball courts, numerous fire pits, bocce ball courts, outdoor kitchens, and patios all surrounded by plant material we choose with the client. Veggie gardens have been a big request and are having a huge comeback. To be in the environment and grow your own food is a remarkable feeling that has resonated with many of our clients.
What is the first thing you do when a client comes to you for a landscape design project?
Ask numerous questions on what they like in regards to a look they’re trying to achieve; help prioritize areas of concern or need for improvement, and also strategize with Kim. We evaluate together what is most important for our clients, their time frame, budgets, or any special occasions in the near future.
How do you approach designing an inland property and a seaside property differently?
For oceanfront properties, it’s important to use plant materials that can handle the sea salt spray and harsh weather, such as Junipers, native beach grasses, rosa rugosa, pines, spruce, and hardy perennials.
What are some of your favorite plants to incorporate into Hamptons landscapes and why?
Lagerstroemia ‘Natchez’ aka Crape Myrtle as they’re a beautiful tree with unique bark in the winter and white blooms in the summer. They are excellent focal points in a landscape.
Quercus ‘Regal Prince’ has become a favorite fastigiate hedge along with the ubiquitous Hornbeams. They both have unique growth upright habits and look beautiful as a hedged backdrop to ornamental trees, in beach grass settings, or among a scattered grouping of Crape Myrtles.
Pennisetum ‘Cassian’ is a nice ornamental grass that has gained popularity for its unique foliage in July and August. Ornamental grasses are a great plant, very natural and add a different texture to any garden planting.
Viburnum Sieboldii—an oldie but goody. They have white fragrant flowers and the foliage, when scratched or pressed against, smells oddly like pepper, which may be why the deer stay away from this. Cornus Kousas, which is a Dogwood, is one of my favorites. Pair all of these with dark green boxwoods and it lends itself to a beautiful garden. One of my new favorite boxwoods is Buxus Dee Runk—a tall pyramidal option to flank doorways, driveway entrances, or gates.
Some perennials that I am loving are Hosta ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ and ‘Humpback Whale’. They are great when paired in a garden with other perennials with contrasting colors and different textures. Of course, the go-to for color are Hydrangeas in the Endless Summer Collection, Perovskia (Russian sage), and Nepeta, which is becoming widely suggested due to its deer resistance.
How do you find your plant material? Do you have any industry secrets?
Over the 19 years we’ve been in business, we’ve built relationships with numerous growers from Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina all throughout the Northeast and have visited over 100 nurseries to find and select high-quality plant material that is suitable for the Hamptons clientele. Due to the popular increase of the deer population, we have to adhere to some deer-resistant plant material unless there is a regular deer-spray program.
What is the best time of year to begin a landscape project in the Hamptons and how long does an average Groundworks project take from start to finish?
It depends on the scope of the project. If people want to have a brand new landscape installation by the next season, it is best to start the design process in the fall prior. We are fortunate to have a large clientele base who continues to do business with us and enhancements so the earlier you contact us the better. It truly depends on the scope of the project it can be anywhere from a two-day installation to an entire year.
You’ve created beautiful landscapes at so many luxurious Hamptons homes. What is most important to you when designing an outdoor space?
The most important element is communication with the client. We get pictures from them and try to recreate spaces they are drawn to. Delivering designs where they can have fun with family and friends and entertain in the space of their own yards is what we aim to provide.
Much like fashion trends come and go, are their current landscape trends you can share?
Yes, there are quite a few landscape trends happening in the Hamptons.
• Creating a recreation area in which you can sit and relax or entertain friends (now that we have that ability) around firepits with cool landscape lighting. But still be Low maintenance, automated irrigation, lighting, nice lawn furniture that’s comfortable and timeless
• The use of vintage items as focal points in landscapes for a cool blend of old and new. This can also take the form of changing the purpose of old buildings. One client of ours used an older outhouse and turned it into a gardening shed. Talk about being given a new life! To blend it into the landscape, we planted beautiful hydrangeas, Endless Summers, and ornamental grasses.
• Focusing on relaxation areas. Hammocks, hot tubs, meditation walking gardens, and yoga meadows are all popular right now.
• Having modern gardens. Many are looking for gardens that simplify the environment and match the simplicity of a modern home, a very uncluttered approach to unclutter the mind. This includes design elements like unique specimen trees, more ground cover, less lawn and mulch, and blurry planting bed lines instead of harsh lines. Shrubs in mass plantings but different varieties, rain buckets, landscape lighting, and rock gardens are also very popular in this category.
Lastly, what is your favorite thing about working with properties in the Hamptons?
The unique architecture and the variety of people from all different places. But most of all, being able to create a beautiful landscape environment for our clients to enjoy. A place they can call home happily while they are on vacation or living at this end of the world!
Through Silich and the others on her team, the experience, precision, and passion of Groundworks Landscaping is wonderfully palpable. Rooted in the Hamptons, Groundworks brings a unique understanding of the area and its natural beauty to every project. After all, since the company is located in East Hampton, these landscape experts live, work, and play here.
If you’re seeking a transformative, turn-key experience for your Hamptons landscape or a simple spruce up, visit groundworkslandscaping.com to get in touch and learn more.