Monday, May 13, 2013

Five percent -- Eton Court twins

One of the joys of creating A Butler's Manor was the decorating of it; unlike a boutique hotel, in a bed and breakfast like ours nothing is purchased en masse but instead is individually selected. And especially since we were "theming" the rooms to suggest the real life estates that Chris once ran as a butler, each aspect of each room needed to have its own story.

We describe the room we've named "Eton Court" as a king bedded room which can, which prior notice, be configured as two twins. All our website pictures show the room set up as a king bed because literally 95% of the time that is how guests request it. But because today is part of the other five percent of the year, I thought I'd share a picture of what the room looks like set up with two twin beds, since it is cute that way.

When the room is set up as two twins, it's often to accommodate a girlfriend's trip, a mom/daughter weekend, or a pair of siblings whose days of sharing a bed are long past. Tonight, it happens to be reserved for two colleagues visiting the area on business.

The twin beds in question are antiques, with wooden rails and large iron "hooks" that slot the pieces together. We purchased them in early 2002 at a Bridgehampton antique store owned by a courtly gentleman named Lynne St. John called the Bulls Head Inn. We met Lynne St. John in the early 1990's, and Lynne and Chris had once discussed our purchasing the Bull's Head Inn and restoring it as an inn, but the project was too big for our budget. Fifteen years later, it is now the site of the new restaurant, inn and spa called Topping Rose House. (Read the story by Dan Rattiner of Dan's Papers about its transformation here.)

Very few guests who book Eton Court as a king even realize that it doesn't, in fact, have a king-sized mattress. Instead, there is a foam converter piece down the center of the two twin Sealy Posturepedic mattresses as well as a 3" king-sized memory foam topper over the top, all encased by the mattress pad. All this ensures there is no way you're going to fall into the center of the bed, or indeed, even know it is there. We often get raves about how comfortable the bed in Eton Court is.

Come check it out!






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Friday, May 3, 2013

Jim's Magnolia

When Chris and I first viewed the house that would become A Butler's Manor, it was in September 2001. At that time, the back yard was mainly grass, though the rose garden under the large Sycamore Maple tree was there...we both have a very vivid memory of the owner deadheading the roses while the Realtor showed us around. 

When we eventually went into contract, it took four months to close.This meant that when we finally took possession the end of January, it was the dead of winter and we really had little idea what was growing in the yard, other than those roses. But we were hard at work in the house, furnishing and decorating and creating marketing materials and recipes for our bed and breakfast, so we didn't much pay attention until Spring. And then...surprise! On the left side of the garden, near the gate, a large Saucer Magnolia came into bloom...the variety that sets an entire tree of pale pink blossoms before it sets a single leaf. And that's when I knew for certain that it was meant to be that we bought this place.

In the house that I grew up in, my father, Jim Burton, planted a magnolia in our front yard. It was a Grandiflora, commonly known as a Southern Magnolia, the evergreen kind with the waxy green over brown leaves and the large white flowers that grow well in warmer climates. Ours was supposedly a dwarf tree version, and Dad's only disappointment was that it managed to stay the same size for the whole 35+ years he lived in that house. Of all the plantings in our yard, we all knew that magnolia was Dad's favorite.

So when he passed away in early Spring 1999, Chris and I decided to plant a magnolia in our yard in his memory. We wanted to plant a saucer magnolia not only because it was a variety that grew well in the Hamptons climate, but because it flowered right around the time of year he'd died, and we liked the reminder that he'd never really left us. The problem is that such magnolias not only bloom but are best planted in early Spring, and thus are only available then. So we missed out on the planting season two years in a row, and then we were searching for a bed and breakfast and it didn't seem like a good idea to plant a memory tree at a house we would soon sell.

Fast forward to A Butler's Manor, April, 2002, and here, in the same relative position vis-a-vis the house that we would have planted Jim's Magnolia, was...Jim's Magnolia. The first tree to welcome the Spring, and by extension, I thought fancifully, welcome us and our guests as our season began.

Then in July, when we were running like mad at the height of our first summer season, a curious thing happened. Jim's Magnolia rebloomed, just a little. Maybe a dozen flowers. And interestingly, you could only really see them from where we sat in our office. Now, magnolias of this type don't rebloom normally. So we decided that it was just Dad checking in when we were at our most stressed, sending us a little bloom of encouragement.

This happened every summer for the next eight years.

And then something happened to the tree. Perhaps it was Hurricane Irene. But the following Spring, only about half the tree set blooms, and later leaves. We deep-fed it, removed the climbing tree hydrangea that had been using it as partial support, got the tree gurus out to check it, waited another year. No good. We had to take it out last fall. It left a literal hole in the landscape and a big figurative hole in our hearts.

So last week we planted another magnolia for Jim. It's little, but it will grow. It's blooming still, as I write. 

I don't expect it to send a "hang in there" message with a rebloom in the summer, but you never know...

Quote of the Day: It's said that when we die, the four elements - earth, air, fire and water - dissolve one by one, each into the other, and finally just dissolve into space. But while we're living, we share the energy that makes everything, from a blade of grass to an elephant, grow and live and then inevitably wear out and die. This energy, this life force, creates the whole world. --Pema Chodron


Thursday, May 2, 2013

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