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Eden by the Sea

Rachel “Bunny” Mellon and her husband, Paul, could have chosen any exquisite corner of the globe as the summer holiday retreat for their growing family.

Photography by Dan Cutrona

That cheer extended to the flower, vegetable, and herb gardens, where the devoted student of horticulture, whose botanical library is world-renowned, set to work bringing color, beauty, and garden-to-table practicality to her Oyster Harbors home. Through the grace of her love affair with this refuge by the sea, the deep roots she planted are still bearing fruit.

Not only do the family’s great-grandchildren return each year to the idyllic shorefront compound, but the peach, apple, and pear trees Mrs. Mellon so lovingly pruned and sculpted still drip with fruit. It is now up to her son, Stacy Lloyd, and his sons, Thomas and Stacy, along with a landscape design team and a handful of loyal third- and fourth-generation workers, to uphold her legacy.

The challenge is substantial: how to bring a property that once required 20-40 gardeners and a limitless bank account into the 21st century without compromising its history, beauty, and original intent. “What would grandmother do?” is the mantra for Thomas and his wife, Rickie Niceta Lloyd, who escape their Washington jobs whenever possible to return with their two young children to the happiest scenes of his childhood. The couple cherishes the sight of their children frolicking on the lawn of Putnam House, the historic 17th-century home, brought by barge from Marstons Mills, where Lloyd and his brother spent six weeks every summer as boys. The shoreline path from Putnam to Dune House remains his favorite spot on earth. “It was kept natural and still is,” Thomas says. “I was able to explore, to listen to the birds, to go barefoot. It was away from everything . . . even today . . . there is the calmness of nature. When it’s almost sunset, the colors are magical.”

In addition to obvious decisions, such as no longer growing 10,000 annuals from seed, Thomas says, “the key is to look at the space, pick the elements you love the most, and calculate what measures are required to keep that going . . . what technology can we use to make it more efficient?”

To aid in the decision-making, Thomas and Rickie turned to an old friend who understood the importance of the property to the family and was dedicated to preserving Mrs. Mellon’s legacy. Jay MacMullan of The Garden Continuum in Medfield, spent countless vacations and summer weekends here as the guest of Thomas, his Dickinson College roommate and best friend. According to Lloyd, Jay understood that “the idea behind all my grandmother’s work was to frame an area, give it some structure, and grow it a little . . . that delicate balance between . . . a natural state and structure.”

Together with Monique Allen, landscape designer and owner of The Garden Continuum, the landscape team began to map out a future that would remain faithful to the family and the property. Says MacMullan, “It is a horticultural history paradise, but it is very labor intensive.”

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