Tucked down a quiet gravel road in Mattituck lies a gardener’s paradise — an oasis now open for the public to enjoy.
For nearly 30 years, Dennis Schrader and his husband, Bill Smith, have been building the lush oasis on part of the 14 acres that surround an 1840s farmhouse they now call home.
“There was nothing but poison ivy and weeds,” Mr. Schrader said, describing the state of the property when they purchased it in 1992.
The couple had been in search of a place they could continue and grow their wholesale tropical plant nursery, Landcraft Environments. Their search took them to the Pacific Northwest and southern U.S. but, Mr. Schrader recalled, they settled on Mattituck due to its proximity to clients on the East End.
“Our main priority was looking for an old farmhouse with a view,” he said.
The garden surrounding their residence began modestly, with the planting of two oak trees alongside irises and poppies transplanted from past gardens and from family members, as well as cuttings from a pussy willow that has been in Mr. Schrader’s family for more than a century.
Year after year and acre by acre, the garden expanded. It now covers four of the property’s 14 acres and features an array of different styles and influences. Winding your way through the property, you encounter lush perennial and mixed borders, container plantings that are changed out seasonally and areas that evoke the spirit of an English rose garden or transport you to a tropical landscape.
Until recently, the gates to the garden remained mostly closed to the public, save for family, friends and neighbors wanting a closer look.
But, hungry to share their space with others, the couple joined the Garden Conservancy’s “Open Days” program, which draws a few hundred visitors once a year to stroll the grounds and admire the gardens. From there, word spread and they began regularly hosting garden clubs, schools, universities and plant and horticultural societies.
“Some people would come religiously on our Open Days with the Garden Conservancy,” Mr. Schrader said. “We get pictures all the time from people saying, ‘You inspired us with your color combinations.’ ”
Sharing the space inspired the duo to begin thinking about how to expand access to their grounds and in 2019, they formed a nonprofit foundation dedicated to preservation of the property.
Through estate planning, ownership of the property will eventually pass to the foundation to ensure that the public can enjoy the space forever. “Once the garden got to this level and the reaction of people to it, we thought we’re not going to be able to do this forever, so it’d be nice if people could continue to enjoy it,” Mr. Smith said.
The foundation is led by a board of trustees headed by Mr. Schrader and Mr. Smith as president and vice president, as well as a seven-member advisory board that includes well-known British horticulturist Fergus Garrett and style icon Martha Stewart.
The gardens officially opened to the public last month, drawing in visitors seeking tranquility and inspiration along twisting paths that wind through climbing rose trellises, tree lined pathways and a sensory display of colors, textures and aromas.
Visitors are also encouraged to explore trails through the remaining acreage, which has been left mostly wild and offers habitat for wildlife including box turtles and foxes.
“It’s not only a pleasure garden, it’s also a place for people to come and learn about different plants,” Mr. Schrader said, referring to the property as a “living laboratory.”
Yoga classes as well as workshops that range from botanical sketching to pollinators to bird watching are also planned, he said.
This time of year, visitors can enjoy blooms of all shapes and sizes as the garden erupts with vibrant allium, foxglove, roses and lilies.
But, as Mr. Schrader is quick to point out, the landscape is ever changing. “The sequence of blooms is one of the most important things that we really focus on,” he said. “Every month of the year, there’s something in bloom.”
The Landcraft Garden Foundation, at 4342 Grand Ave. in Mattituck, is open Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through October.
Admission is $15 for adults, $12 for students and seniors, $5 for children under 12 and free for children under 2 and members.
For more information, visit landcraftgardenfoundation.org.