The previous owners had “farmed right up to the back of the house,” he adds, “and when the poison ivy took over, it grew 6 feet, easy.”
Little by little, the two cleared the acreage around the house by hand – “which was quite a chore,” Schrader says wryly – and spent the next year rotating cover crops to improve the soil.
“Corn is such a heavy feeder, there was not much nutritional value left in the soil,” he explains.
So various kinds of cover crops were planted to restore the soil’s nutrition – vetch gave way to sorghum, then to winter rye, which was followed by yet another type of rye.
“We kept tilling them in, and it really boosted things,” he says. “We got a nice loam.”
Moving from populous Nassau County to the country, Schrader and Smith were excited to have so much space and began a huge vegetable garden that “was bigger than the plot of land I previously lived on,” Schrader says.
But the garden soon became more chore than pleasure, and the two often ended up giving the overbounteous results away.
And despite the fence, there were – inevitably on Long Island – deer.
One day a small herd infiltrated the garden, and when discovered, they calmly walked off – almost single file – but, unfortunately, wearing the fence much like a bridal veil as they receded into the distance.
“That was the end of the vegetable garden,” Schrader says. Instead, “we started putting in (ornamental) gardens.”
The landscaper/designer duo were no strangers to decorative plants. In their past lives, they often were called upon to pot up 150 containers of annuals around, say, an estate’s pool.
“And every year it had to be different,” Schrader says.
“So we did different themes: lush, tropical one year; Mediterranean-style the next; water gardens where we plugged up the holes in the pots and filled them with water and aquatics. One year we did all vegetables in pots; another year, fruit.”
Now this emphasis on tropicals is evident in the landscape they’ve created for themselves as well as in containers.