Coastal Garden on Long Island Sound

Photography by Rob Cardillo

Text by Tovah Martin

Every year, Heather O’Neill sets out with a spade, a trowel, and a truckload of plants to frame the distant lighthouse in Long Island Sound.

Heather O’Neill was a teenager when she first began planting around the cottage on Long Island Sound. That was 24 years and two owners ago, but she still remembers the sensations she felt that first summer when as a teenage gardener she was hired to gussy up the original little gingerbread cottage. She remembers wedging plants into the back seat of her Volkswagen sedan and can still feel the brisk sea breeze and the resonance of her shovel when she attempted to dig into the soil but hit unyielding coastal cliff. But what Heather has remembered most clearly over the decades is her reaction to the ambience. “From the beginning, this place was so peaceful and serene; it was like being transported to a whole different world,” Heather explains. No wonder they call it Contentment Island.