Summer always seems to hit like a whirlwind around here, and during the season where the garden is changing and showing off more than ever the blog which is supposed to tell the story always enters a slump. The gardener is busy outside of course, and posting about it falls to the wayside. That’s bad though since going back through the pictures of seasons past is a favorite activity for the desolate dark days of winter and I need that sunny cheerful reminder to keep me going when icy cold locks up everything. So let me apologize for the slowdown and also for the lack of visits to other blogs. I still stop by of course and look, but more in a wallflower way taking it all in but not commenting… oh, and I’ll also apologize in advance if there are too many posts over the next few days. I’m going to try and catch up and I hope I don’t seem like that other party person, the one who just goes on and on 🙂
I grew up on Long Island and still return as much as I can to visit my parents and my brother’s family. This last time while the kids were playing and others were visiting doctors and shopping, I snuck off alone for a visit to the Avalon Park and Preserve in Stony Brook, NY for a summertime peek at their fields of prairie plantings. I was not disappointed.
This is North shore Long Island, gold coast, old money territory, and with a location approximately 40 miles out of Manhattan it’s retained much of its city escape feel. Think Great Gatsby, and although most of the old mansions have either fallen to ruins or been leveled there are still plenty of old estates and gentleman’s farms. Fences and gates usually separate the common people from these retreats but in this case several tracts were purchased and the gates were opened.
Avalon is made up of three sections, Avalon Park is a manicured area with woodland plantings, walking trails, and art features, Avalon Preserve consists of hiking trails through woodland, old field hedgerows, and the prairie plantings, and East Farm Preserve is a Nature Conservancy property accessible through the Avalon sections. The three parts combine to form a nice cross section of Long Island’s former wilder self.
Although today the park is a peaceful oasis filled with children playing and friends strolling, the origins of the park are rooted in grief. In 1996, 34 year old Paul Simmons was killed by automobile collision while cycling nearby. To celebrate his life and love of the outdoors the park was created. At the site of a former pre-park residential building a memorial for Paul has been built, with an adjacent meditation labyrinth. On this visit art installations of colorful knit ‘tree sleeves’ and hanging patterns dotted the area.
The park plantings, buildings, and care reflect a healthy park endowment and it’s not surprising considering that the father of Paul Simmons is one of the world’s wealthiest men. James Simons is a math man who has translated his mathematical talents into the financial markets and stands somewhere in the 70-80 range of wealthiest people worldwide (around 30th for wealthiest Americans). His story is a fascinating one, but his estimated 14 billion net worth surely hasn’t hindered park funding, and is always the subject of whispered stories in the three villages area of who works for his remarkably successful Renaissance Technologies and what their annual take home pay might be.
Coming down out of park brings you down to the Stony Brook mill pond. This is the duck pond I loved visiting back in the day and is the power source for the Stony Brook grist mill (c.1751). As recently as 1940 the mill was still carrying on the work of grinding local grains into flour and even today the wheels are put into motion on summer weekends for the sake of tourists. It’s an area rich in history from the sea captains who settled around the harbor, to the colonial farms which cover the rolling hills, to the Manhattan escapees who missed the train to the Hamptons and ended up here.
I love this area for its quiet waterfront peacefulness and many hidden treasures, but on this visit it was the flower filled fields which really made me smile. On a still summer morning the low hum of thousands of native bumblebees visiting the flowers and the less-than-springtime-frantic chirping of songbirds really worked magic to calm the day.
Good thing the day started out relaxed. Summertime beach visits and afternoons spent barbequing can be so stressful 🙂
Now back to the garden. We’ve been to Florida and back in the meantime and catching up in the garden has been an uphill battle against Japanese beetles and crabgrass…. but there’s been plenty of pool time too, so I really can’t complain!
Viva la summer 🙂