There are many such places on Long Island, complete with mansions (summer homes) built and landscaped for the wealthy tycoons of the late 19th century. Some of these fabulous estates, once owned by people with names like Vanderbilt, Marshall Field and August Belmont, have been donated to the state of New York and have become state parks, open to the public.
One such place is the Bayard Cutting Arboretum on the South Shore of Long Island. The estate was built by William Bayard Cutting, an avid horticulturist and collector of plants and trees, in 1887. The landscape design for 'Westbrook,' as the property was called, was done by Frederick Law Olmstead, the landscape architect for New York City's Central Park.
We spent a day there last weekend and it was a most peaceful and enjoyable experience.
My favorite part of the day was walking underneath a massive weeping beech, through a tunnel to a secret cave within the old tree's branches. It was cool, dark and quiet and I felt a keen sense of kinship with the old tree. The weeping hemlock was similar and seemed to welcome me into its embrace for a view of ancient gnarled trunk and branches. The experience was a singular moment and I felt the presence of God.
|Paths wind through about 300 acres|
|This old specimen has character|
|Idyllic places perfect for wandering|
|A close-up of one of many evergreens in the Pinetum|
|This fading hydrangea is still lovely|
|A young egret poses for a photographer|
|Under the ancient weeping hemlock|
|The trunk of the weeping hemlock|
|A stunning weeping beech|
|Under the branches of the beech|
|Path through the rhododendron garden|
|A place for quiet reflection|
|One of the old trees I wanted to hug!|
|Ferns decorate the floor of the woods|
|Mrs. Cutting's tea house stood on this site at one time|
|A bit of bird-house whimsy near the farm|
|The front lawn looks out onto the Connetquot River|
Let's see, we had perfect weather, a long walk with many photo-ops, lots of trees and flowers, and a few truly sacred moments during the day. What more could one ask for on a summer Sunday?