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Though Long Island is typically known for its beaches (and traffic), it’s also home to several transporting gardens made for exploring. They’re full of everything from roses and camellias to azaleas and forget-me-nots.

These spaces are also a reminder to slow down and appreciate what we have when we have it — to literally stop and smell the roses. 

There may be no better time to take advantage of them. After a cold winter and seemingly endless year in a pandemic, it’s time to find the bright spots. As the weather warms up, consider taking a walk through these eight Long Island gardens.

LongHouse Reserve, East Hampton

This East End garden, founded by textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen, approaches landscape as an art form. It encompasses nearly 16 acres of East Hampton Township’s Northwest Woods and includes cryptomerias, native trees and colorful flowers that change by the season. The horticulture is juxtaposed with art installations and large sculptures. LongHouse Reserve is currently open by reservation only.

Madoo Conservancy, Sagaponack

Tucked away in Sagaponack, this spot is a sight to see. It’s intimate and eclectic. Robert Dash, the artist who founded the garden’s about four decades ago, uses the circa-1740s barn as his summer studio. Dash and the guests who walk the grounds who walk the grounds see roses, clematis, colchicums and crabapple trees. But the garden’s real charm lies in its untamed landscaping. Not everything is manicured like a Hamptons hedge. Plants of different sizes and colors grow side-by-side here, giving it a forest-like feel. 

Great Neck Steppingstone Park, Kings Point 

Guests don’t have to choose between beach day and garden walk at this Suffolk Park. It features a playground, sailing school and butterfly, rose gardens and even a view of the NYC skyline. The rose garden, which was founded by renowned architect Beatrix Farrand in the 1920s, is on the western end of the Village Green and spans 6.5 acres. There are also sculpture carvings, and guests can walk catch a peak of butterflies in their element at the butterfly garden. 

Steppingstone Park in June. (Photo Credit: Courtesy Great Neck Park District)

Bridge Gardens, Bridgehampton

This hidden five-acre gem boasts a variety of plants. Some are gorgeous to look at, like the various perennials, annuals and shrubs, and others serve a purpose. There’s an herb garden with medicinal plants and a vegetable garden with everything from kale to eggplant that helps support local food pantries. Visitors love how private if feels — it’s an escape from the hustle-and-bustle that sometimes accompanies high season in the Hamptons (and everyday life). 

Planting Fields Arboretum, Oyster Bay

This historic park spans more than 400 acres of land and has a history that dates back to the bygone era. The entire property, which includes Gold Coast mansion Coe Hall, once belonged to railroad and insurance executive William Robertson Coe and his wife, Mary “Mai” Huttleston Coe. They had an interest in rare species and plants and created a collection of gardens that includes camellias. The oldest garden, known as the Italian Garden, was created in 1916 by Mai Coe and features perennials and shrubs. In the Main Greenhouse, you’ll find succulents, ferns, orchids and cacti. 

The Sensory Garden at Planting Fields. (Credit: Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park)

Lavender By the Bay, East Marion

Roses are gorgeous, but North Fork residents and regulars have come to have a certain affinity for lavender. Lavender By the Bay typically has a small English bloom in June and another in September. But the 17-acre farm is in all its glory during the first two weeks of July, when the largest bloom of the season occurs. Just a head’s up, though: Mother Nature sets the pace, so timing varies from year to year. The staff keeps eager visitors posted on the farm’s Facebook page. When the large bloom does happen, a visit to Lavender By the Bay is a sensory experience. There’s the intoxicating smell of fresh lavender, the gorgeous sights of more than 80,000 plants in full bloom and even a chance to taste lavender honey made by the farm’s busy bees.

Lavender by the Bay in full bloom is a sight, and smell, to behold. (Photo Credit: Krysten Massa)

Sands Point Preserve, Sands Point

This property is perhaps best known for being home to the Hempstead House, the mansion that inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby. But visitors have the chance to unearth one of Long Island’s hidden gems: a rose garden behind the famous house. It contains 1,500 red rose bushes that are a sight to see when in full bloom and several fountains that only add to the charm. Six marked hiking trails that take guests through 200 acres of natural and landscaped areas, including gardens and a freshwater pond.

While Hempstead House is closed currently, Sands Point offers miles of grounds to stroll. (Photo Credit: Discover Long Island)

Old Westbury Gardens, Old Westbury

Tentatively scheduled to reopen April 1, Old Westbury Gardens is set on the former estate of businessman John Shaffer Phipps. Its Walled Garden is perhaps its most iconic feature. Guests can walk through colorful displays of roses, bulbs and tree peonies. People can also follow the brick road to the rose garden, where azaleas provide a pink-and-white backdrop for primroses and blue forget-me-nots.  

Westbury Gardens (Photo Credit: Discover Long Island)