lessons learned in the garden

For her East Hampton home, New York designer Charlotte Moss often brings back ideas from gardens she visits on her travels. The blue moon gate in her kitchen garden was inspired by English countryside estates.

Charlotte Moss not only knows how to cultivate a garden, but also a life well-lived. She shares six lessons learned in her beloved East Hampton garden.

PATIENCE IS REWARDED. I recall Lisa Stamm, who collaborated and guided me on our garden, saying, “Let’s do climbing hydrangea on the oaks, and in five years it will look great.” I thought, are you kidding—that long? I eventually realized I was going to have to grow old slowly with some of those trees. Now it has been over 20 years, and the climbing hydrangea just rocks on.

STYLISTIC TASTES EVOLVE. In the beginning, I wanted that perfect English herbaceous border—my Gertrude Jekyll moment—with undulating color and a riot of blooms. The maintenance made me crazy. As time went by, I wanted to simplify my life. The more gardens I saw, the more I appreciated the glory of green, and what could be done in shaping it and the architecture of the garden.

EVERYTHING DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A LIFELONG COMMITMENT. Change can happen in pots. It doesn’t have to happen in the ground. A cluster of containers in the right places allows me freedom to experiment.

GRAND GARDENS CAN INSPIRE SMALLER SPACES. I love to visit great gardens in my travels, and I always bring ideas—and lots of photos—home. Even one espalier against a wall creates a story, structure, and shape that’s interesting. You don’t have to have an acre or a hundred.

LET IT GO. In a garden, failure is part of the learning process. On a visit to Sissinghurst Castle in Kent, England, I was told that when something wasn’t prospering, Vita Sackville-West [the famous writer and garden designer] would say, “Hoick it out.” Cut your losses.

APPRECIATE YOUR GARDEN FOR WHAT IT IS NOW. If you keep moving, you never allow yourself to just be in the moment. I get my best ideas when I slow down and let it be for a while. I’ll wander around to enjoy and assess before I even think about tackling the next thing.


By Charlotte Moss | Photography by Michael Mundy

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