Andrew Sabin and Lei Shen


Do not pause too long in admiration of the finely pruned weeping willow at the rear of the house, whose proportions are as admirable as those of the magic tree at the center of blue willow ware or, as I did, when I reviewed in mid-spring enviously taking in a huge, alluring display of purple hellebores. We are not here for such felicities. We are not here to take in the well-tended paths, nor circle the brimming natural pools alive with plump frogs and basking turtles. We must be brief with the emotionally charged, mossy, classical Victorian sculptures. Fountains, too, we must pass by. And David Austin roses. We can but briefly admire the general graciousness and sweep of this seven-acre property, immaculately maintained by Tommy Edwards, who is green in heart and fingers. This garden is directed toward the production of vegetables, fruits and berries, and therefore its floral and horticultural persuasions must take second place in our overview.

Let us start in the basement of one of the many outlying dependencies of the property where Andrew Sabin, each spring, under growlights, on heated and unheated tables, begins it all, months before the seedlings are planted out. A separate table holds his meticulous records: place of origin, date planted, approximate germination rate, sprouting times…. Many years of scrupulous notation, guides to future configurations of weather, soil, moisture: Harris, Stokes, Parks, Pine Tree, Thompson & Morgan, Evergreen, Territorial the supplying firms. When the seedlings are well on and strong enough for the change, they are taken to the nine cold frames nearby for hardening off. Work. Work. Beautiful, satisfying work. Read Thomas Jefferson on the joys of farming, old in years, forever young at gardening.

We are talking about 9,000 square feet of vegetables and flowers. Talking about a separate patch for pumpkins, another for watermelon. About gourds scrambling up native cedars. Figs. Grapes. Raspberries and gooseberries. There is the huge working of the compost area: the time-honored system of twice yearly turnings for a three-year product: seaweed, bedding straw, wood chippings, manure. We are talking of annual rye as cover when beds are harvested. About the weed-suppressing technique of newspapers spread on tilled soil with compost over and seedlings planted through. The odor is that intoxicating one of soil of finest tilth, a mill race of earthworms, friable and welcoming. (Here, a detour might be in order: there are Angora goats, pedigree chickens and pheasants too being raised here.)

And what of the vegetables whose overflow goes to The Montauk Senior Citizens Center? Seven sorts of onions, asparagus, okra, hot and sweet peppers, beets, lima, green and wax beans, squash between the corn, eggplant, seven lettuce types….I think you have the picture and I have forgotten kiwis and probably much else. Succession plantings. Bare earth is an organic gardening no.

There is a grievous lack, however, a mar in this vegetable panoply. There is no garlic. The lady of Mr. Sabin’s heart doesn’t like it. Now I have a few (very few) friends who are garlic haters and I tolerate them, but the idea of a lover, no matter how wooing or charming, who despised this necessary, beloved bulb, would be, for me, utterly impossible.

A golden ten, nevertheless.