A Story Takes Bloom
So, how does one approach the recreation of the gardens of a horticultural tour de force such as Bunny Mellon? In its heyday, the estate saw as many as 20 regular gardeners across the properties, with Mrs. Mellon herself choreographing the show and no modern irrigation system in sight. “It was a different world,” comments Jay MacMullan of MainStay Landscape, charged with honoring the legacy of Bunny’s illustrious homes while making some more self-sustainable updates to the guest house and kitchen gardens for the home’s current stewards. As the life of a flower is often bright but short, the gardens at Putnam House have undergone many updates and transformations over the years under the direction of MainStay Landscape. “Gardens evolve as transplants; divisions; and redesigns are all necessary parts of the process,” explains MacMullan. “If there is anyone who could intimidate you as far as landscape, it was Mrs. Mellon. She was just a legend, and when it comes to maintaining her properties, we want to be sure that we continue to honor that.”
MacMullan, an Osterville resident himself, brought over 15 years of experience to MainStay Landscape, which he founded in 2015. For him, the backbone of MainStay is great relationships: “We always put people first,” he says. “Understanding our clients, their needs, and really listening is paramount to our mission as a company. We’re not just building and maintaining landscapes; we’re developing partnerships with our clients and contractors.” Whether the projects are large or small, MacMullan describes the MainStay process as strategic and thoughtful. They are a team that is systematic in their planning and emphatic in their execution, and the result is a seamless process and uniquely imagined landscape. When it comes to maintaining and re-envisioning the work of a cultural icon, there’s no company more prepared for the task.
“We started by planting certain seeds and perennials we knew Mrs. Mellon loved,” details MacMullan. “Her favorite color was blue, so of course every shade of blue imaginable is throughout the design.” The MainStay team also paid homage to the history of the property. “Because the soil at Putnam house is so rich, thanks to years of propagation, the seed layer began to expose itself through soil cultivation,” says MacMullan. “There’s so much seed in the soil that we continue to this day to discover cosmos, rudbeckia, verbena, sunflower and chamomile germinating in spring.”
“Instead of removing a plant or seed that we uncover in an attempt to maintain order in the garden, we almost always leave it where it started,” continues MacMullan. “Mrs. Mellon would never have pulled a plant growing through a patio stone, but rather nurtured it. In fact, the randomness of nature was one of her greatest pleasures.”
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