“Marders” is the high essence of a Hamptons Nursery and so much more. It is the epitome of success, situated on 40 acres of prime Bridgehampton real estate. Charlie Marder of 120 Snake Hollow Road, along with his wife Kathleen have built a monument that has been providing their expertise and services to the residents of the Hamptons for about fifty years.
The stories are now folklore. Back in the day, usually wearing his trademark suspenders, Charlie was ever ready to move the largest trees of the Hamptons whether they were to be planted, relocated, or removed. He once boasted to this reporter that he had the record for the widest load moved by the Shelter Island South Ferry. Charlie said he deposited a tree onto the ferry on one side and fetched it off the ferry on the other side, recalling, “The tree was wider than the ferry, sticking out on both sides.”
Charlie and Kathleen’s story is pure Hamptons/Hollywood. They married on January 1, 1976, after meeting at Ripon College in Wisconsin. After they married, they moved to Springs. Charlie had grown up in Springs and graduated from East Hampton High School. Kathleen was from Westport, Conn.
In the beginning, Charlie Marder sold firewood from the back of his pickup truck. His world changed when he leased a hydraulic tree mover for a week. Learning as you go, Charlie mastered the technique of problem-solving when it comes to moving and replanting large trees successfully; he claimed it was the foundation for his huge success.
He credits his first real substantial customer, Alfonso Osorio, for helping him establish himself. Over those first couple of years back in the late ’70s, Charlie worked with the legendary artist, creating one of the most renowned private tree collections on an estate. Forever modest Charlie forged great knowledge and skill from that era that now benefits his customers of today. In fact, the first spring I interviewed Charlie Marder, he said he had four million dollars worth of trees in inventory at the nursery, including a 50-foot-high Copper Beach with a 30-inch trunk that would sell for just under $80,000. That was over fifteen years ago. Imagine the value of his exotic inventory at today’s prices.
He roughly estimated then that his 28-acre spread (now 40 acres) had about 2,000 trees and shrubs on it. He credited Warner LeRoy as the greatest influence on him and his collection of trees and shrubs. This is far from the space he had in Bridgehampton in 1982 on Main Street. He recalled Kathleen’s knowledge of “rare and unusual plants, which we had quite a collection at that time,” propelled Charlie into purchasing the present location.
Charlie talked of successfully moving cedar trees as being what he was first known for. He told of his expertise being called in to move trees including for both New York City’s Central Park and The Botanical Gardens. Charlie believes the largest tree he has ever moved was a 90-foot-high Dawn Redwood that he moved years ago. The nursery now has a multitude of trained crews for moving trees such as giant beech or large redwoods. Charlie is known in elite circles as the tree-moving guy.
Looking around the large two-story barn that is the nerve center of the nursery, one will notice supplies and brands just not available at most places. The beautiful wooden floors of the barn make for pleasant strolling inside. There is also a collection of garden tools available. Real eye-catchers are the varnished driftwood tables that are worth going there to see. The classical music creating a soothing atmosphere inside the barn makes it easy to see why Marders Nursery has a loyal upscale clientele. The great service, great selection, and great wisdom Marders offers are renowned around the highest of gardening circles.
In that interview years back, Charlie Marder made me promise to mention his and Kathleen’s gratitude to every single customer over the years. He stressed it was a privilege and honor to be able to work with every single one of them.