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A Landscape at Peace With Man and Nature

The true test of a garden is how it looks in the rain. Any landscape is lovely garnished with blue skies and butterflies. But in a summer storm?

As I turned onto a six-acre eastern Long Island garden in pelting rain the other day, the first things I noticed were two gravel tracks, bordered by waterlogged shrubs and the dim silhouette of the landscape designer John Beitel, sheltering in place in his vehicle. Without any of the usual clues — there were no manicured panels of privet, overfertilized rose beds or aggressive hydrangeas — I could as easily be meandering through a remote forest preserve as a Hampton Bays garden on the edge of the Peconic Bay.


Mr. Beitel has an affinity for the untamed shoreline of Long Island, having grown up in Bellport on the South Shore. “Gardening is very much like fashion,” he says. “Trends come and go. Now we are getting back to the basics, which means restoring a more natural setting.”CreditEric Striffler for The New York Times

I rolled down a window. “My car or yours?”

“It’ll blow over soon,” Mr. Beitel predicted, jumping into the passenger seat of my rental car to wait out the weather with a confidence I admired even if I didn’t share it. But Mr. Beitel knows his turf, having grown up just a few miles away in a bucolic South Shore village called Bellport. Earlier in the morning, he had sailed across choppy waters from Fire Island, and he was “fairly sure” that he would be able to make it back, he said.