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Item of the Week: Katherine Appleton’s Sunset Garden

Thu, 02/29/2024 - 11:22

From the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection

As spring creeps ever closer, the green thumbs among us may start to feel pressure mounting. Bulbs planted last fall are beginning to show results, and planning for the spring planting season is beginning in earnest.

For members of the Garden Club of East Hampton, spring is crunch time. This has been the case since the club’s founding in 1914. Many prominent female residents of East Hampton are counted among the members of this club, including Katherine Jordan Appleton (1879-1949).

Katherine was a summer resident here from 1916 until her death, and was involved with many local groups and organizations, including the Ladies Village Improvement Society, the Maidstone Club, the Devon Yacht Club, and the East Hampton Riding Club. Aside from her many activities, she and her husband, Robert Appleton, a publisher, were well known for their estate, Nid de Papillon, or Butterfly’s Nest, designed by the architect Frank Eaton Newman and built in 1918.

Before the house was built, Katherine planned and planted an extensive and lavish garden visible from the neighboring Maidstone Club golf links. She detailed her plans and process in a brief article written for the Garden Club titled “The Sunset Garden.” 

According to her account, golfers were often so distracted by her garden that they failed to see where their stray golf balls were ending up. The foundation of this arresting vista was a mixture of shrubs, evergreens, and fruiting trees, surrounded by a profusion of annual and perennial flowers in sunset hues of red, orange, and yellow.

Katherine was well known for her flower-arranging abilities, and in 1934 she took first place in the Garden Club’s annual competition with an all-white arrangement. She would remain an active member of the club until 1948, a year before her death.


Julia Tyson is a librarian and archivist in the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection.

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