Tree hugging

Superstorm Sandy, which devastated so much of the Jersey Shore and the South Shore of Long Island the end of last October, by comparison dealt the East End only a glancing blow. The biggest damage incurred was to our beaches (which, with the advent of the spring ocean currents that return sand taken away in winter, have begun to rebuild themselves) and to the trees. Like an airbrush tanning session, the wind-driven salt-laden air coated the leaves. As it was late Fall, the deciduous trees shed their leaves as usual. But the evergreen trees retained their spray tan…and because we had almost no rain in the months that followed,  many pine and fir trees in fact have turned rather bronze. Unlike on humans, on a tree, bronze does not look healthy.

The tree gurus tell us that most of the evergreens will sprout new growth and eventually push off their unwanted “tan.” But it may take more than one season to do so. I am heartened, though, as Spring is upon us, to see some green pushing through the boughs of some of the white pines around town, which were as a species particularly hard hit. So maybe it will be all right after all. Coming as I do from the reclaimed desert that is Southern California, trees are precious to me, and it hurts to lose them!
Here at A Butler’s Manor, Sandy wasn’t the worst of the problem…it was the series of nor’easters that followed over the course of the winter. The last one, in early March, brought down five large trees around the perimeter of the pool and the back of the property. Replacing those, as well as the ornamental trees that did suffer hurricane-related damage, has been one of our focuses this Spring.
Last week, we had five good-sized crytomaria planted, as well as two small Japanese Maples to “buddy up” to our bloodied, but unbowed showpiece tree that suffered the only major blow Sandy dealt us. A large Leyland pine came down in the windstorm, on the head of the Japanese maple, severing many limbs. (The picture above was taken the day after Sandy — you can barely see the limbs of the maple under the fallen Leyland.) But our plucky survivor (seen on the right), while rather odd-shaped, has just started to sprout leaves, and its two buddies on either side will help fill in the hole in the landscape (and add beautiful red color!).
Still to come are a couple of large cherry laurels and a golden cypress, which will help fill out and add texture around the left side of the pool (now open, as seen in the picture). Another ornamental tree we just replaced will be a separate post, as it has its own story.
Chris has been working hard in his garden, trying to transfer to the carefully-weeded beds a nice layer of the black mulch that is currently taking up real estate in the back of the car park. Dozens of varieties of daffodils are currently in bloom, most of them cream-colored double daffs with frilly petals and touches of peach, salmon, or  pale yellow. They are gorgeous in the guest rooms.
Quote of the Day:  Storms make trees take deeper roots. –Dolly Parton

Surviving Sandy

Thank you to the many guests who have emailed us, concerned at how A Butler’s Manor fared in the “Frankenstorm” called Sandy. I want to let everyone know we are safe and the Manor is intact. We were very blessed to have been struck only a glancing blow by the storm, losing only one large tree in the area behind the pool. Our power went down for a few hours before the hurricane made landfall near Atlantic City, NJ, but was back up before nightfall.

As often happens following a horrific storm, Tuesday, October 30 dawned clear and sunny here in Southampton, with only a light breeze. Chris and I started at 8 AM to take down the fallen tree, a 30′ Leyland Cypress that had, alas, fallen atop our favorite tree, the specimen Japanese Maple that graces the back of the pool. This little warrior took a hit about six years back when we had a Nor’easter blow through in late April, taking down five trees. That same Leyland Cypress, and the slightly smaller Arborvitae in front of it, dominoed down on top the Japanese Maple, amazingly breaking only the top of its crown. We were able to save and cable both the Leyland and the Arborvitae…until Sandy. It took Chris about four hours with a chainsaw to free the little tree. It will be one funny shaped Japanese Maple for a few years, but we hold out hope that it will recover and continue to add its beauty to the landscape for years to come.

We’ve been driving around the village of Southampton to assess damage. As expected, our south facing Atlantic beaches took a major hit, scouring the dunes from most of the beaches. The pictures and video here that show rocks and revetments were photographed on Tuesday evening. In our twenty years in the Hamptons, we’ve never before seen the hardscape, as they were completely covered by dunes. Meadow Lane, which services the ocean front mansions, was flooded and impassable on our reconnoiter, but it was nothing like the photos we saw online of Dune Road in Hampton Bays. (Dune Road and Meadow Road were once the same road; the 1938 hurricane that created the Shinnecock Canal split the barrier beach into two parts, separated by access from the ocean into Shinnecock Bay.) The easternmost end of Dune Road, where Oaklands and Sundays on the Bay are located, have lost ALL of the dune that separated the Atlantic beach from the road, the parking lots, and the marina on the bay. The road disappeared entirely under sand, and the entire spit is flat as…well, as a beach.

But Southampton village is fine, has power, and is open for business. Restaurants are serving meals to those either without power or just consumed with cabin fever (the Southampton Publick House was PACKED last night!) Road crews have cleared broken tree branches to the road verges and the town and village trucks are busy collecting debris, while LIPA is in evidence restoring power to those who still are out.

I apologize for sounding banal, with our tiny little losses, when so many, many others have suffered far worse fates and will be putting their lives together for weeks, maybe months. Our hearts, prayers and positive thoughts go out to our friends and guests west of us on Long Island, and especially coastal New Jersey who have suffered catastrophic losses.

On a positive note: We just had our first EVER trick or treaters knock at the door of A Butler’s Manor! (When the street parallel to you is called Elm Street, and many of the houses on it decorate accordingly, no one usually ventures beyond to our humble front door.) Bless kids — no hurricane damage is going to keep them from Halloween candy!

May we learn from their resilience!

Gearing up for Frankenstorm

The weather predictors are in their element; according to them, we’ve got a massive confluence of weather events coming together to create a monster storm that is supposed to impact just about everybody east of the Mississippi (and a fair amount of folks west of there, too). Hurricane Sandy is currently tracking up the Mid-Atlantic and is supposed to make landfall on the Jersey Shore sometime Monday night. Long Island, on the northeast side of the counterclockwise winds, could be walloped with sustained winds of 50 MPH or more for several days.
However the Frankenstorm playes out, what is assured is that the storms, which coincide with a full moon on Monday, will wreak havoc on our beaches, with storm surges expected to be at eight feet or more. This picture was taken early Sunday morning at high tide at Southampton’s Gin Lane beach. There is only about fifty feet of sand from the pool of water mid-frame to the parking lot. It’s my guess that the waterfront “cottages” will see some flooding — the town has ordered manditory evacuation of homes and businesses on Dune Road (especially in Hampton Bays). Two of our favorite lobster houses, Oaklands (which closes for the season today) and Sundays on the Bay, will be battening down the hatches for the next few days!
Thankfully, we have no guests scheduled at A Butler’s Manor for the duration of the storm. Instead, Chris and I are preparing to hunker down and watch it blow the rest of the leaves out of the trees. No storm shutters this time, and I do have some concerns about the giant Sycamore Maple tree that anchors our back yard, but otherwise, we’ve assessed our food/water/battery/back up systems and are as ready as we can be. But the funny things you think of (well, I think of, and admittedly I’ve got a weird mind): Since I expect Frankenstorm will decimate the remainder of the autumn garden, at least for awhile, I made sure to collect scads of brightly colored maple leaves this morning on my walk to refrigerate so that I have some material for plate decorations. And I picked all the flowers I could find in Chris’s garden to make a Sandy bouquet, before the rain washes their petals away.
We’re going to light the fire, have the coffee and wine at hand, get out our books and have a “hurrication,” and hope that Sandy blows herself into oblivion elsewhere!
Stay safe, everyone!

Quote of the Day: “It’s not a bad lesson to learn in the bleaker months: how you view a storm is a question of perspective; provided you find the right rock to watch it from, it could be the most incredible thing you’ll ever witness.”  ― Dan Stevens