Sunday, January 5, 2014

Garden Glamour 2013 Look Book: The Garden Design Year in Review- plus the garden stories still waiting to be “Looked At”

We are stewards of our beloved, inherited, Kwanzan cherry tree that adorns our front yard 

This is the time of year for lists; looking back and ahead. 
It’s all good - (c’est si bon) as it allows us to assess and be mindful of our dedications and passions and challenges.

In that spirit, here are my (hopefully lucky) 13 Garden Moments for the 2013 Look Book:

1.   It was bleak.  2013 started off the year with garden sadness. 

There was just simply too much Superstorm Sandy melancholy and detritus in the area’s gardens and landscapes left over from the time of the storm.  

Sad truth, there still is.  Everyone knows someone who is still not back in his or her home, are still rebuilding or some variation on this scale.  I have several garden design clients who just now acquired the permits to move forward… (And to think it only took 410 days – just under 15 months- to build the Empire State building in 1929 – from excavation to ribbon cutting.)

And punching romantic notions of garden beauty, especially as the aggressive tree companies from the Midwest were commissioned here to cut down or hollow out the trees that had managed to survive Sandy’s wrath. 
That buzzing sound of super claws and saws is impossible to forget…
Do you know of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream?” 
That’s kinda’ the emotion that the sound of these tree-buzzing killers evoked.  

For too much of the winter, it was Sandy clean up and plant repair.
To make matters even creepier, a beloved garden design client located in Sea Bright, in the Garden State, had six of their trees cut down while they were away for the winter, waiting for the town to determine house height rebuilding guidelines.  

It was the textbook case of adding insult to injury.

It was breathtaking destruction and cruelty – and a crime. 
The local police and detectives did their work but as of yet, still no arrests. 

Just last month, the murderers struck again with abandon – and cut down yet another tree plus gouged two more. 
These are trees that are 20+ years old.  The loss of shade, oxygen, and shelter for birds and other creatures is truly heartbreaking…

Gardeners are ever hopeful and so we will replant once the house construction is complete this spring and summer.

And the plant care resulted in the espalier coming back and we replanted the checkerboard parking courts. 

In town/New York City – so many of the trees in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn were damaged by Sandy’s salt and winds. 
Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg – a great friend to botanic gardens and parks and gardens – initiated the Million Trees program – allocated $3.45 million for tree pruning compared with the previous year. 
But Stump removal was not given and far too many ugly stumps remained.
I noted these sad tree carcasses on many occasions after disembarking from the Wall Street ferry to see yet more cutting. More loss.
FEMA stepped in and covered the costs of grinding down 4,000 stumps where more than half of the tree was uprooted or was sitting on damaged sidewalk for a total of 7,000.  
Of the 16,000 new trees planted in NYC in 2013 there were few that replaced the stumps…

2. Another sad note was Garden Design Magazine ceased publication in April.   

Much lamenting and some Monday-morning quarterbacking from garden enthusiasts made the green social media wires quiver with wistful regret. 

Good news – again, (the theme is “gardeners are ever hopeful”) – and in this case, Garden Design will again be publishing, this time it will arrive quarterly – promising to be more like a book than a magazine” with a target date of summer 2014. 
The magazine suggests you sign up here to be notified of their announcements.

In the meantime – Garden Design Magazine can be found online.

3.  A HUGE highlight of the year was Martha Stewart Living selected my book, The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook as “Gift for the Gardener” Pick!  
This was a remarkable honor, a blink-back dream, and a gift to me and the chefs and growers in the Homegrown book.
Martha’s Stephen and Melissa wrote: “More than just a book of recipes, this lush cookbook profiles outstanding Long Island chefs and their personal gardens.”  

4.  “Rice the Immigrant Grain” lecture caught my eye and writer’s imagination.  

Held in February at the magnificent ode to all things books and literary: the New York Public Library, the talk covered “How and why did rice, primarily long grain white rice arrive in the British colonies and become big business. Rice origins are Asian and West African and is through these populations migrations that rice became an establish staple in us.
Author, Renee Marton, and her book, Rice: a Global History” was published this year.  
Rice author Renee Marton

And just like one does in New York, I, in turn, networked Marton to EunYoung Sebazco, horticulturist, landscape architect and the Rice Guru at the Urban Farm on Randall’s Island Park Alliance, where she and her team, including Nick Storrs and Phyllis Odyssey, the Director, planted and successfully grow New York’s first and only rice paddy.  
Phyllis Odyssey, (L) and EunYoung Sebazco - Randall's Island Park Alliance

Devoted to practicing and teaching sustainable growing methods to future generations, the Urban Farm is a unique, bold garden that boasts many enterprising initiatives, including the Rice Paddy.
On its own, the Randalls Island Rice Paddy has been heralded by the First Lady, Michelle Obama, the Japanese consulate, New York Magazine, David Chang’s Momofuko restaurant who’s chefs help contribute to edible school programs.   
Nick Storrs, showcases Randalls Island Rice Paddy

5.  I had the pleasure of enjoying several Martha Stewart newsworthy events and milestones this year, (besides my book’s being named a Gift for the Gardener), including the release of Martha’s first Cake cookbook and the American Made spectacular awards ceremony and tasting party held fitting at the “Crossroads of American” Grand Central Station in the glittering Vanderbilt Hall, and replete with a red carpet and a cavalcade of food and fashion and TV personalities. 

The press event for the launch of Martha’s Cake Stands with Macy’s was an elegant, intimate affair held at her New York City offices and test kitchen for Martha Stewart Weddings.  
Here editor Darcy Miller and her talented team displayed diminutive and standard domed cake stands to showcase a variety of cherished things from flowers to cupcakes to cookies.
I should've tried the Cronuts while I had the chance! 
The idea was to stimulate and inspire (Martha might say, “educate”) us journalists as to how to creatively use domed cake stands in our home décor. 

And to further the connection and engagement, Martha’s team upped the ante with a contest of sorts.  The challenge was to use the cake stand we selected as our Swag in creative ways for the next week or so and send the images showing our creations.  “Winners” were to be given a $50 Macy’s gift certificate and a featured spot on Martha’s Wedding blog.  
Guess what? I won!  I featured silk flowers with a teeny LED light in one design and another with fairy tale eggplants and purple basil for another.  It was fun. I did one every few days. 
And I still adore the cake stand that sits like jewelry on my kitchen table, the adornment changed out for the holiday or season. 

6. The annual NYBG Winter Lecture Series is a much-anticipated series of talks held at the Garden at the ideal time of year for landscapers, horticultures and gardeners to learn from the industry’s celebrity authorities. 
Last year – the Series featured:
Tom Stuart-Smith: The Modern Garden: Finding a Language 
Chris Strand Winterthur: The Last Wild Garden
Bill Thomas Chanticleer: A Pleasure Garden at NYBG

This year’s Winter Lecture Series – the 14th annual starts January 30th. (Launched the year before I worked at NYBG, I just love how the Series matches the year. The NYBG folks are too clever…)  Register now:

NYBG also provided an excellent Landscape Design Portfolio Series, held at their Midtown Education Center in Manhattan.  

This season’s speakers were: Christine Ten Eyck, Gilles Clément, and Mary Margaret Jones—all shared a focus on reclaiming and regenerating urban landscapes—both vast and intimate—from parking lots to public spaces to industrial waterfronts.  

Giles Clement, the French landscape designer wowed the audience with the beauty of his garden designs, as as well as his gardener-as-advocate and interpreter approach to using and understanding plants.

The Wave Hill annual Lecture Series at the New York School of Interior Design held every winter is yet another outstanding opportunity to learn from the horticultural rock stars. 

7. A knock-out of a show is the New York Botanic Garden’s Orchid Show.  It was even more of a delight as so much of the Show was curated so well.  

On the way to the The Shop after a lecture to check on my Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook that is sold there, I thought I’d seen the show in previous years so thought I’d just take a peek and be on my way.  Think again.  I was held spellbound at every point.  This Orchid Show must be experienced. Every year.

8. Being a garden writer, I receive plants and tools, on occasion, to try out,  test and write about. 
Last year’s pleasant surprise were the Mighty ‘Mato tomato plants that are grafted onto SuperNatural rootstock. 
I tried several varieties in our edible garden and was impressed with the harvest, taste and the fact that we were harvesting right up till frost in our zone 7. 

The fruits are two-ounce bright red, salad tomatoes with sweet flavor. They are crack resistant fruits, and were late blight resistant.
Grafting is a natural technique that joins the top part of one plant (scion) to the root system of another (rootstock)
I don’t know why I was resistant to the concept of grafting – perhaps it stirs up images of “Franken-carrots” or other modified plants.  But truth is, this is all natural.
The growers write:
As the nation’s gardeners begin a clamor for organic and local sources of food, many have opted to grow their own. While the downturn in the economy has encouraged this as a practical consideration, additional stimulus has come from health concerns over GMOs and toxins found in the average American diet. Throw in the impetus from the superior taste of homegrown veggies and the trend to grow-your-own vegetables is quickly becoming a movement.
(More on the grafting story upcoming)

In response to the demand for grafted inputs, SuperNaturals Grafted Vegetables is now offering over 100 varieties of grafted plants

9. The Horticultural Society of New York (HSNY) 3rd annual Urban Agricultural Conference was a kinetic, educational and inspiring gathering.  The post and my coverage still generate a ton of visitors – - testament to the interest and enduring 

10. Two highlights of 2012 worth noting: the opportunity to be featured in local media to discuss and share with their readers how to remediate plants affected by Superstorm Sandy and how to grow edible gardens and enjoy eating healthy, homegrown food. 
In The Two River Times:

11. A breakout event was the launch of The New York Botanic Garden’s Hortie Hoopla, a professional development event designed to bring horticulture interns together to discuss career options in the green industry.
The brainchild of the Charles Yurgalevitch, Director of NYBG’s School of Professional Horticulture, the premiere event was an unmitigated success.  

Student Vanessa & Charles Yurgalevitch (R)

There was an all-star speakers lineup, including Ken Druse, lecturer and radio host – and a speaker at this year’s Plant-O-Rama, January 28th, and Ethne Clark, Editor-in-Chief, Organic Gardening magazine, followed by Garden tours and dinner in the Ruth Rea Howell Family Garden. 

There will be a Hortie Hoopla this year. Stay tuned.

12.  The Metrohort lectures and gatherings with the area’s horticultural professionals are held at the Central Park Amory during the winter months and there the evenings are filled with plant pros and food and drink.  Unbeatable combination.
So was this past year’s line up of speakers:
Thomas Woltz – Stories of Plants and Place: Horticultural Narrative from Private     
Gardens to Botanic Gardens,
Jeff Epping - Sustainable Gardens: Designs for Greener Gardens
W. Gary Smith – Nature’s Patterns  (Smith also showed us his bold design work on a Virginia couple’s estate and that news story recently ran in Anne Raver’s New York Times garden column.  I love Anne and her garden writing…)
Diana Balmori - Plants: Actors with new roles on a city stage  

During the summer, Metrohort leads educational visits to the area’s parks, gardens and arboreta, including Greenwood Gardens in the Garden State and Governor’s Island. 
Those stories still to be told.  
Greenwood Gardens

13. The stories still waiting to be produced, er, written, for the Look Book 2012 are many – sorry a garden writer and author and garden designer has no down time!
Here are a few that stand out to be shared:

* Stately Homes by the Sea: an annual designer show house and garden, located in Rumson in the Garden State (think Gilded Age estates, refreshed by designers and decorators.  

This year’s home, the former Hartshorne Mansion, survived the ages but took a heavy blow from Superstorm Sandy… 

The Hartshorne Mansion is a registered historic home, was built in 1891 by a member of the New York Stock Exchange, but perhaps better known as a U.S. Olympic ice skater – five time dance champion and US Figure Skating Hall of Fame inductee. His home hosted Sonja Henning who skated at the home’s front pond. He was on his way to judge the 1961 World Championships in Prague, when incredibly, Hartshorne and the entire U.S. Figure Skating died in a plane crash.
It’s a great story – and the Hartshorne Mansion home designer showcase – is one I’m keen to tell.

* Another one that I’m incredulous I haven’t written is the review of my talk about Kitchen Gardens and my Homegrown book at the Strauss Museum for The Atlantic Highlands Historical Society.  In fact, for this post, I had to Google it thinking my blog overlooked this important news item.  Sigh… 

* Appreciation for Revered Garden clients.  It was incredibly busy seasons for my Duchess Designs team and our garden clients.  I am truly blessed to have garden clients who are not only lovers of the beautiful aesthetics of garden design and the sheer exuberance of plants and the joy they bring but they possess that innate garden patron’s characteristic of patience and vision – so essential always but particularly so after Sandy… I so love the chance to make them happy with seasonal container compositions and plant care and summer annual plant designs to add that "punch" of color.  

* I’m also keen and thankful to welcome new garden clients this year.  Here’s that thread of hopefulness yet again – that garden lovers seek the possibilities and see the light, while some must fret for the economy and Sandy – there are still those that will say – “Let’s plant a garden and enjoy our home more.”  

And what a gateway to other garden world experiences! 
I am so honored that one new garden client suggested me for a Ted Talk!  Wow. That’s surely a vote of garden confidence.

And all the opportunities that came about late this year are already filling the early 2014 calendar – from a book signing at Metrohort’s Plant-O-Rama to teaching at NYBG to talks and interviews and…  

While I feel guilty and wistful about the 2012 stories I didn’t get to write, I remain grateful for the migration from a bleak start to a heroic, glamorous garden conclusion to the year and the recognition that plants and gardens heal and enrich all of us. 

Just look and listen to the plants…
If you missed WNYC’s Talking to the Plants – Secret Life of Plants with Michael Pollan – whom I have written about for the Wall St. Journal. 
Pollan cites plants as his first love- back to his roots and talks about plants’ intelligence and memory and communication – a topic I have long embraced and have been working to share via my writings.. Love the gravitas Pollan provides.

Embrace and Love the mystery and beauty of Plants...

This was the year we broke down and installed turf in part of the front garden - and it enhanced and complemented the allee arbor and perennials beds -- and felt good on the feet… 
We got goldfish for the one-year old water garden fountain, and enjoyed our first bloom of water lily - both day and evening bloomers. 

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