Thursday, June 29, 2017

Greenacre Park is a Jewel of a Garden - Like Tinkerbell, She Needs You to Keep Clapping. Fight For Light

This is a park with a pedigree.

It surely was kismet when a Rockefeller helped create a pocket-sized, jewel-box of a public park in Gotham back in 1971.

Creating a park in that era was an investment - a sign of hope for the future of a city that some thought wasn’t worth it -- even the American president in 1975 offered a kind of Bronx cheer to the citizens of New York City.

Today, NYC can truly be thought of as the “shining city on the hill” that other American presidents from Kennedy to Reagan emphasized when referring to America.

But we really are that city! Everyone who moves to New York City comes with a dream. To be the best. To feel that urban frisson and work with all kinds of people. And contribute to our shared community.

Greenacre Park is a beacon. Yet, its own light is slowly being snuffed out… We can’t let that happen.

Greenacre Park

Recently, I was privileged to be part of a garden tour with our Metro Hort group - the “association of professional horticulturists in New York City and the the tri-state region.”

I so appreciate this working group of professionals - we meet at the Fifth Avenue/Central Park Armory in the winter for lectures and how-to’s and bonhomie - in order to increase our knowledge and skills, and in the warmer months, we tour outstanding gardens and parks, organized and led by the respected hort professional, Sabine Stetzenbach - who I had the honor to work with at The New York Botanical Garden

First up this season was the outstanding public garden: Greenacre Park.

I think I have it right that we were the first professionals to be invited and accorded a full tour by the Greenacre Foundation staff who manage, operate, and maintain this urban arcadia. Our Greenacre hosts were Joe Renaghan and Lois Cremmins.

I’m kind of embarrassed to say that I never visited this park previously. Don’t repeat my mistake. This is a must-see; trust me.

In an elevated, theatric sense of style, you enter this garden space by stepping up into it. You alight upon it. There is that sense of arrival -- leaving the street and - like crossing a threshold - entering another world. It’s indeed one of the more glamorous gardens I’ve seen - and I mean to compare it estate gardens, as well as parks and parts of botanic gardens.

In addition to the sheer delight taking in the trees, perennial plants, and that majestic 25-foot waterfall over granite that makes living in New York -- or any urban environment where one is delighted to discover so much dramatic nature and beauty - (just as in New York’s Central Park) - it’s important to note these urban oasis’ are a designed and built environment.

While I’m not entirely sure, I do think that many New Yorkers - and others - believe the parks - and for that matter - the botanical gardens - are preserved remnants or remains of what was once a more native landscape.

However, the truth is, all of our parks and gardens and public spaces have been professionally designed. With love.

Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Given all the jewel-like references to Greenacre Park, it seems quite appropriate to learn this gem of a park had a woman steering its creation and design. A rich woman too.

Abby Rockefeller Mauzė - granddaughter of the industrialist John D. Rockefeller Sr. gifted the park to the people of New York in October of 1971. With love. And she dedicated the park to her brother Laurence and his associate Allston Boyer, for their help in getting the park created.

She directed the cobbling together of three lots via the Greenacre Foundation that continues to manage the park today. Gail O. Caulkins, the president of the Greenacre Foundation is Mauzė’s granddaughter.

As part of our tour of this “vest-pocket” garden park, the Metro Hort members sort of clung to the hosts and speakers like so many hens and chicks - clinging to the mother plant - to absorb the privileged news and inside, first-hand information and lore. (And to hear over the roar of the waterfall.)

Don’t you just adore garden history? It’s all so precious with its links to money, heritage, locale, and politics and personalities.

The story unfolded… In the 1970’s, there were lots of empty lots in New York City.

Hard to believe it now when there is so much over-construction - (more on that later.)

With a desire to create a public garden, Abby Rockefeller Mauzė established the Greenacre Foundation to fund and maintain a very special space: roughly 60-feet wide by 120-feet deep.

Greenacre describes the space as “slightly smaller than a tennis court.” We’ll take the tennis “love.”

See, good things do come in small packages…

So it’s all the more dismaying to later learn that this gift to the people of New York is being besmirched in that harm will come to the jewel box after developers steal the light.

Garden Design
The look of the park, designed by Sasaki -- Sasaki, Dawson, DeMay Associates with Masao Kinoshita as lead designer and Hideo Sasaki and Tom Wirth - has remained true to the original design. It’s a classic, cultural landscape.

We learned, too, that Mr. Sasaki is still alive and visits the park. He made a surprise spring appearance and contributed to the spring pruning!

The park is comprised of three levels:

  • The rear wall at the lowest level is punctuated by the 25-foot waterfall
  • The central area, paved with russet brick and layered with tree canopy and seating
  • A raised terrace along the west wall with a trellis roof of weathered steel beams and transparent acrylic vaults. There are heating elements there, built into the trellis roof. 
There are 12-foot honey locust trees in the center of the park -- six on each side of the runnel brook that navigates the length of the park from the sidewalk to the waterfall.

These sturdy yet delicate trees provide the much-needed and enjoyed “dappled shade” that visitors embrace and the designer planned for.

We learned these trees are living in giant container pots under the hardscape!

It’s a very unique design, described Lois Cremmins, Executive Director, Greenacre Foundation. “There are large pots beneath us, each with its own irrigation system.”

More magic beneath our feet.

Accessorizing the interior design of the park are mid-century Knoll tables and chairs.

Park goers can arrange them to create their own conversation pods and reading nooks.

We were told that visitors also come to practice yoga, propose marriage, and all kinds of connections.

I asked what the funniest things were that happened in the park -- after all, it is New York City. “There was the time a woman tried to wash her hair in the waterfall pool; and the lady in the winter of ‘72 who dove in the water in her dress -- only to be outdone by the woman who stripped naked to dive in… Ah, the theater of a public park…

We were told that from a construction standpoint, the park is unique because it was built from the “inside out.”

There was a crane on 51st Street that dropped in the granite back wall for the waterfall first, with three pumps. We were told it’s an imperative to keep those pumps in tip-top working order because it would be very cost prohibitive to replace the pumps.

Next, the blocks went in. The stone is gorgeous and dramatic too; a kind of stone art on the walls.

Trickles of water collect from the base of the highly textured ashlar masonry of the east wall and feed into the runnel.

On the west side, the higher terrace, is covered by trellising and acrylic domes, to provide a protected overlook down into the garden.

It’s a lovely perch to view the lower level of the park. And it shows what good garden design can do in spite of the size.

The designers created a sense of movement within the distinct “garden rooms” and offer elevation and movement with the different levels.

It’s a very transporting experience - a delight for the senses.

There’s no doubt the crowning glory of the space is the Greenacre Park waterfall.

The roar of the falling water is a kind of “white noise,” designed to block out ambient urban noise.

The Foundation is testing LED lighting for the waterfall now to replace the previous ones corroded five years ago. The Fisher Marantz lighting designers will complete the work by November. All the evening lighting is managed with a timer.

Here I am with Greenacre Park manager, Joe Renaghan. When I asked him what he did with the Park and he told me he was the manager I looked skeptical, saying I’d never met a park manager who worked in a suit. Without skipping a beat he told me, “I work for the Rockefellers.” So there you go. Gotta love a gentleman urban farmer / gardener!

The hardscape design creates the framework for the garden-like park. The plants are the fashion statement creating the alluring style and romance.

There is Boston Ivy clinging to the walls.

There are ilex shrubs as part of the evergreen plant portfolio. There are other low-light shrubs, including azaleas, rhododendron, andromeda - Pieris Japonica , Japanese Maple, Star Magnolia, to name a few. “We see what plants do well, “ added Cremmins. I especially enjoyed the crape myrtle, the Japanese umbrella pine and mock orange.

Sabine and her team from Town & Gardens are tasked with selecting the annual plant palette in the bowl and upright containers. They change out the plants two times a season, refurbishing the soil, pinching, pruning and providing plant love.

The colors and the textures just pop!

While the T&G team does the heavy hort work, Charlie Weston is the resident park maintenance guru for the park and has been there since the park opened! Talk about committed passion for a garden…


Can You See Me Now?

Greenacre has organized a “Fight for Light” campaign backed by the Municipal Art Society; New Yorkers for Parks; Gale A. Brewer, the Manhattan borough president; and City Councilman Daniel R. Garodnick, whose district includes the park.

Why? Because the simple reason is there is too much high-rise building approved that will produce so much shadow that the park will lose light.

Light for people; light for plants; light for life.

I read that as part of the Greenacre Park’s dedication by the City Parks Commissioner, August Heckscher said, the Greenacre “... places no burden on the city, which makes no demands, which asks of us only that we cherish it.”

Why don’t we cherish it now? I can only speculate. Greed comes to mind…

Here is my kinda garden rant:

Look, horticulturists and garden lovers understand that change is a matter of course.

Nature and time change things. We get that. And so just like that, neighborhoods change too.

But there needs to be an element to managing a sustainable change. Let’s not wholesale sell our neighborhoods away to building and real estate and the promise of profits for a few.

Let’s be realistic.  Don’t you think there should be shared “sacrifice” so to speak?  We can’t allow the few to be “Takers.”
And make no mistake, if the continued construction of these huge buildings continues, there is a quality of life that will be taken -- taken away forever from the people who live and work in the neighborhoods.

There is some cosmic comedy at play that is traces the thoughtless “Takers” in real estate development and city government and the “dark side” because of their ability to permanently create dark spaces in our life.

Don’t let this happen.

To continue to use the metaphorical - I hope that we can effectively combat the forces of darkness to preserve the light -- and the beauty of our gardens and parks.

Don’t get me wrong - I adore “Shadow Art.” So much so that I have a Pinterest board devoted to the interplay of light and shadow. But that s a natural, ephemeral, moment of beauty.

What we’re being subjected to in the case of Greenacre Park is the permanent “shading” of the space - as in “pulling the shade” and “lights out.”

Let there be Light

There isn’t a living soul who isn’t charmed by the romance and beauty of this garden park. Tourists, locals - residents and office workers.

So why smite those who only asked us to “cherish the space.” Why indeed?  Again, all signs point to selfish greed.
Building bigger and higher. For what? Half the time people don’t permanently live in these structures.

Paley Park has lost light as you can see in the photos below. I adore Paley Park - I ate breakfast and lunch there for so many years… It was a gift everyday to find a spot and soak in the ambience of water, oxygen, people and light.
I deplore the deliberate, calculated destruction of its environment just as I do that of Greenacre Park.

Think of this destruction of our parks as similar to that of the Amazon rainforest or the wholesale change in habitat in Africa or our seas.

Environmental destruction is a kind of creep. It catches us all unawares.
Next thing you know there is the man-made horrors of the Dust Bowl or the famine in Africa due to clearing of the trees…

We need to get mad - get angry enough to change this creep from occurring.

Nothing gets between a New Yorker and our parks. Remember when Bette Midler organized protests against the Giuliani administration to prevent them taking away community gardens? The running joke was that Rudy could bust the mafia but he couldn’t break the gardeners’ will. He bowed to the green enthusiasts. Bette created the New York Restoration Project that continues to honor art and beauty in our city.

If these gigantic buildings are allowed to continue - it has truly giant ramifications - not just for Greenacre Park but for other parks, for community gardens, for our quality of life.

Rezoning should be an issue that we all have a voice in. We need the power to control the element of light in our lives.

What to do?
Care enough to make a difference for Greenacre - and other parks.

  • Like and follow Greenacre on social media - @greenacreparkny
  • Join their mailing list to receive alerts. 
  • Text GREENACRE to 22828 to get started.
  • Go to and send emails to Mayor Bill de Blasio urging him and his administration to preserve the sunlight
  • Commend Borough President Gale Brewer and Councilman Daniel Garodnick for their support of the Fight for Light
You can make a difference.

Think of this like Tinkerbell in Peter Pan. If we stop clapping - or caring -- the light. Goes. Out.

I tell my own garden clients and often say at speaking engagements I’m privileged to talk at - that healthy plants need three things: water, sun, and love.

Can you show the love?

The Greenacre garden / park is open from the first week week in April to early winter.
You can get to the Park via public transportation: take the 4,6 and get off at the 51st Street station or the E, M to the 53rd Street station.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

How to Create a New Garden Border - For Beauty and Defense against Deer & Ticks

Under the rubric where the “cobbler’s kids have no shoes,” it’s a miracle that our own country house home garden is as beautiful as it is…

But just like my clients, my husband and I have to be mindful of budget and schedules. Plus, there never seems to be enough time after working in my clients’ gardens. You get the idea.

We usually take on one or two “garden rooms” to produce each summer season. (And phew - almost completed all my garden dream rooms throughout the property).

Our garden rooms include the Water Garden, the Ladies Border, the Red Arbor, St. Francis Rock Garden, the Farmette, the Shower Garden, the Orchard -- and more… We’ve been featured on House & Garden tours and will appear next month in NJ Monthly Magazine.

This year, we agreed the focused project would be the driveway. My goal is to take up the paving (bad chemicals, non-permeable, ugly) to a more permeable, and more garden-inspired design. More on that soon as we begin the work.

The start of the driveway work was displaced by the need to rip out and replace what is the border in our backyard.

Let me set the stage and put this into context.

Our front and side yards are where the designed, sculpted gardens are. The back yard looks out with an 180 degree water views from Sandy Hook National Seashore to the South Shore of Long Island and the Rockaways to Brooklyn (love seeing the ferris wheel at Coney Island lit up on summer nights) to Manhattan’s “castles in the sky” to Staten Island.

There is no need to create a visual competition with gardens. Outside of the edible garden “farmette” and the mini orchard -- it’s a bird’s eye view.

However, there is a lot of trash plants growing on the hill there. We’re at the highest point on the East Coast and the properties go from yards to impenetrable pseudo-forest of tangled invasive plants including sumac, honeysuckle, invasive cherry tree and vines, and Porcelain Berry  - Ampelopsis brevipedunculata (here plus full list of Garden State invasives).

While for the most part these “plant thugs are out of site descending as they do down the hill, there was a series of them, layered, and covered with the god-awful, invasive Chinese Honeysuckle, Lonicera maackii. 
Sure it smells nice - for about a nanosecond - but you’re left with ugly, branches and a fighter who won’t budge.

Furthermore, according to the New York Botanical Garden’s (NYBG) “Mistaken Identity” scientific paper on Invasive Plants and their Native Look-Alikes, “Wherever invasive honeysuckle shrubs displace our native forest species there is a huge potential impact on these migrating bird populations due to the reduction in availability of native food sources.”

If you really want honeysuckle - please plant our Native alternative to the Asian honeysuckle. There are various types of trumpet honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens from which to choose.

If all that wasn't bad enough, what really prompted me - dare I say drove me - to rip out these plant thugs was that earlier in the spring, as Bill and I were enjoying our evening garden walk with our cocktails, a deer head just beyond the border -- a young buck - was perusing the yard from behind the “border hedge” we’d created - looking for all the world like that neighbor character from the Tim Allen Show where all you saw was a nose and eyes above the fence. Young “Buckie” was not to be deterred despite a slingshot and me charging him. Harummphh. He jumped out!

I shrieked. Not because of the cloven-hooved satan, or big rat that he is was now in my world - but because my garden was not designed with deer in mind. We’ve lived here 20 years and nary a fawn has been seen. In a flash, I saw all the years of designing, planting, and luxuriating in the glory of our gardens go up in smoke.

We learned there was building going on up the hill; probably forcing them out of that habitat to seek yet more food.

Please know that deer are now rutting two times a year vs. one.  Many are giving birth to twins and triplets as a result of their fattened state.  There are more deer now than when the settlers first landed on these shores. And where there’s deer, there’s the mice and the dreaded ticks.

Please people, do NOT feed these predators. I just read where a local homeowner was allowing this tick-infested Bambi to swim in her pool!  We need to work as a community to rid our neighborhoods of these admittedly cute creatures (oh why did Disney ever produce Bambi?) and see them for the enablers that they are.

Not too long ago, I saw this at an extended family's residence in Hunterdon County.  This is not pretty.
Plants in Jail -- Result of Deer Menace

Deer and Ticks and Mice; a most unwanted Menage à Trois fueled by -- Acorns!
Bear with me - there’s a connection to the heading….

Some of my garden design clients do, of course, have deer in their yards -- some of the properties are in fact, in the middle of what I call, “deer highways!” But I have incorporated that element into the overall garden design and plant choices. We’re meeting the enemy head on and with eyes open.

Here, I felt blindsided!

I immediately researched the deer and tick and mice situation near us. The news was grim. According to, “Oak trees go through a boom-and-bust cycle with acorn production, and 2015 was a boom year in the Northeast. With a plentiful food source that can be stored over the winter, the mouse population often swells the following year. We saw the acorns in 2015 and then we saw a plague of mice in 2016.”

The text bubble in my head was saying, “I love nature’s symbiosis and the natural food chain but please not with all these nasty elements….” And honeysuckle interrupts the food chain, I read. Not unsurprisingly.

Further, this year, there is a “new” dangerous tick-borne disease called the Powassan virus that is carried by the same tick that transmits Lyme Disease. Double the problem…I’m also figuring that none of these circumstances are helped by climate chaos -- because the winters are not cold long enough to kill off those critters and plants that would normally die off.  As a result, we now spray our clothes with tick repellent.  This one is good and lasts for five to six washings.

Far too many of the good horticulturists I work with have this growing Lyme plague -- that is woefully misdiagnosed and treated far too often almost as an afterthought. “It’ll cripple the health care system,” is what one of my stricken hort men told me who has been battling the crushing Lymes for years.

Then, I read that deer just love to canoodle in the honeysuckle - which means essentially that our “border hedge” could become a love nest for Mr. & Mrs. Buckie Deer.

Not on my watch!

I found this in my research from 10 Reasons to Remove Honeysuckle:

(This is number 11!:)

The presence of Amur Honeysuckle may be increasing the risk of tick-borne diseases, especially in suburban areas where homes are built near woodland edges.

“Invasive bush honeysuckle might be increasing tick-borne disease risk on a pretty large spatial
scale,” says Brian Allan of the University of Illinois. Allan has studied how honeysuckle, deer and ticks interact, and he has learned the shrub attracts deer, and as a result, attracts more ticks. That means people don’t have to go to the woods and prairies to find ticks anymore. The deer are bringing them to us. And it has the effect of concentrating deer in locations where honeysuckle is present, particularly in suburban landscapes. The shrub produces several stems that arch outward, forming a canopy that creates ideal bedding areas for white-tailed deer. “Deer are using the shrubs for shelter,” Allan says. “There’s nothing that really compares to it in terms of native vegetation.” Areas invaded by bush honeysuckle have a higher density of ticks infected with pathogens than areas of native vegetation.

Deer ticks are the main carrier of Lyme disease. “Deer are a food source for adult ticks and a transport mechanism,” says Linn Haramis, entomologist from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Thank you, Chris McCullough, President, Greater Cincinnati Chapter Wild Ones

That was more than enough for me. No canoodling in our yard!

Soooo - the back border hedge got moved up to the number one position.

Garden Border Hedge
We needed a hedge that could stand up to a true “cat walk” and other animal species, including raccoons and groundhogs, one that would be deer resistant, in case these deer ever do return, evergreen, and good looking. A tall order you say. Indeed. While I might prefer boxwood, it too has issues of late; moreover it was too expensive for our budget at this time.

So after research and input from several of my best local nurseries, I determined to plant the Ilex ‘Compacta’ holly - Aquifoliaceae Genus: Ilex Species: crenata Cultivar: 'Compacta'

It will grow four to five feet high and wide. It’s evergreen. It looks like boxwood.

I needed 25 of the Ilex to cover the border area and Scott and his son, Mike, from Coastal Nursery - one of the best in the Garden State and family run and owned - came through.

And while not inexpensive - it was doable.

The Six Degrees of Hell
And yet, therein lies the trauma of beating back the satanic invasives. Face it folks. We all need to deal with them one way or another.

It was a week of cutting back the invasives; finding the original border (with metal edging!) and cutting, clearing, hacking … You get the idea. It’s horrible. These invasives have survived because they are so strong -- which only means one cannot easily rid them from the landscape.

We gardeners are hopeful and optimistic folk. We are steadfast. Our forefathers had to hack away to make way for agriculture. Those thoughts kept me going.

It was horrible. Did I just say that?!

Finally, with help from my Duchess Designs team - especially Darin, the Master Gardener, Bill, me - and a lot of dedicated hope for a better, healthier yard -- we’re looking at the upside of a sustainable, clean, garden design. I know we will need to be vigilant to keep the plant thugs at bay.

Neighbors do need to be respectful and keep their yards tidy too…

We’ll plant/sow turf outside of the newly created steel borders. But it’s a good start and a world away from what was.

Please share your experiences to thwart the thugs and to enjoy true garden glamour.

Inspired landscape design …  A work in progress.  

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

NYBG’s Newly Expanded Farmers Market Opens for the Season, Offering Fresh and Nutritious Local Produce, Specialty Foods and Other Exciting New Features

Ahhhh - it's officially the first day of summer. Admit it, you've been waiting all year for this very moment.

If that wasn't enough to make you giddy with delight, today marks the return of the Farmers Market at The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG).

Offering a diverse array of fresh, locally grown vegetables and fruits, along with hand-crafted baked goods and specialty foods, The New York Botanical Garden’s Farmers Market opens for the season today, just inside the Mosholu Gate and across the street from the Botanical Garden station of the Metro-North commuter railroad.

With a newly expanded roster of vendors from the Hudson Valley and other parts of the tri-state metropolitan area, the NYBG Farmers Market will bring the flavors of the seasons to New Yorkers throughout the summer and into the fall every Wednesday, running until October 25, 2017. Hours are 9 a.m.–3 p.m.

The Garden’s market has been reimagined by Pascale Le Draoulec, who manages farmers markets in the Westchester communities of Hastings, Irvington, Chappaqua, and Bronxville.

Before running farmers markets, Pascale Le Draoulec was a newspaper reporter for 18 years. She spent most of her career writing about food, and from 2001 to 2007 she was the lead restaurant critic at New York’s Daily News, where she won a coveted James Beard award for her reviews.

A first-generation American of French heritage, she is the author of American Pie: Slices of Life and Pie from America’s Back Roads (Harper Collins, 2002), which chronicles her cross-country road trip in search not only of her American roots but also people who still make pie from scratch.

The market will include not only a regular weekly lineup of some of the area’s top produce vendors, bakers and specialty food purveyors—with more than twice as many merchants as in recent years—but also a rotating group of artisanal merchants, offering such treats as savory jams, piquant salsas, infused olive oils, caramels, and gourmet salts.

The market accepts cash, credit and debit cards, and EBT cards, providing visitors more ways to take advantage of the market’s amazing bounty.

Admission to the Garden grounds is free on Wednesdays, allowing visitors to explore many of the Garden’s offerings such as the ever-changing flowers and plant collections in the award-winning, sustainable Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, the 50-acre old-growth Thain Family Forest, the Native Plant Garden, the Perennial Garden, and the inspiring Home Gardening Center.

As an added convenience, visitors can shop at the Farmers Market first, then store their fresh produce with the Garden’s new complimentary Veggie Valet service as they enjoy the Garden’s many features. Purchases will be kept on ice until visitors pick them up before they leave.

Nice touch! Love the greenmarket concierge service.

This is an outstanding, well-curated list of food artisans and growers. This collection, gathered in one place, helps distinguish a valuable Farmers Market, offering unique and distinguished ingredients, and makes it a must-do weekly food gathering -- plus -- what's better than shopping in a garden?

The weekly vendors at the NYBG Farmers Market will be:

  • Big Bang Coffee Roasters, Peekskill, N.Y.–Hot or iced coffee and coffee beans 
  • DiRiso Rice Balls, Hastings, N.Y.–Arancini (Italian rice balls) stuffed with porcini mushrooms and other homemade Italian foods. Arancini Brothers' could be the very best anywhere - enjoy these treats! 
  • Dr. Pickle, Paterson, N.J.–Pickled products, from standard cucumber pickles to peppers, olives, mushrooms, and much more 
  • Honey Locust Farmhouse, Newburgh, N.Y.–Organic teas, various types of honey, and jams made with local Hudson Valley fruit 
  • Meredith’s Bread, Kingston, N.Y.–Breads, rolls, cakes, cookies, pies, biscotti, challah bread, and quiches, including sugar-free and gluten-free baked goods 
  • Pie Lady & Son, Nyack, N.Y.–Butter-crust fruit pies such as mixed berry, strawberry-rhubarb, and apple, sold whole in three sizes or by the slice 
  • Red Barn Bakery, Irvington, N.Y.–Savory and sweet treats from a full-service bakery 
  • Taliaferro Farms, New Paltz, N.Y.–Wide variety of produce (peppers, zucchini, kale, spinach, turnips, beets), fruits (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, apples, and melons) and many varieties of interesting, hard-to-find produce and herbs 
  • True Food of Nyack, Nyack, N.Y.–Fresh, flavorful seasonal salads and burritos made with local organic chicken 
  • Wave Hill Breads, Norwalk, Conn.–Artisanal breads and pastries made with organic whole grains milled at the bakery 
Setting up at the farmers market on a rotating basis will be:
  • Anna Maria’s Savory Jams, Cliffside Park, N.J.–Italian-style jams meant to pair with cheeses and yogurts, enhance the flavor of meats and poultry, and complete the presentation of cured meats and pâté 
  • Arlotta Food Studio, Briarcliff Manor, NY - Infused organic olive oils such as garlic, lemon, red pepper, and blood orange; balsamic vinegars; and tapenades 
  • Found Herbal, Chappaqua, N.Y.–Lotions, balms, salves, sunscreens, and more—all made with local herbs and flowers 
  • Healing Home Foods, Pound Ridge, N.Y.–Gluten-free and vegan granola, crackers, and other delicious, healthy snacks 
  • La Petite Occasion, Chappaqua, N.Y.–Caramels, toffees, and other handmade confections made with local, high-quality ingredients 
  • Lucero Salsas, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.–Homemade salsas, pepito pestos, tortillas and tamales 
  • Wild Sea Salt, Pomona, N.Y.–Gourmet salts infused with such local ingredients as dandelion, stinging nettle, cedar berry, and sumac. 

Happy Summer. Celebrate the season. Happy cooking and baking and drinking.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

What to Drink While Viewing the Jeff Sessions Testimony? Start with an Alabama Slammer!

Washington has become a kind of running reality show or a series … It’s all too Game of Thrones.

While today’s testimony from the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, may not have the celebrity accorded to last week’s James Comey media event and it’s party-like halo that prompted me to write a pertinent post about Cofveve Cocktails - today is still a must-see TV day to watch or listen -- to the proceedings.

You can watch or listen today as Sessions testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee at 2:30 ET on all major media, including PBS.

Because Mr. Sessions hails from the Camellia state or the Yellowhammer state (so named for the state bird, a type of woodpecker), an Alabama Slammer seems most appropriate.

The Alabama Slammer’s history stems from the 1970s and was developed near the University of Alabama to celebrate the Crimson Tide.

The Alabama Slammer is a cocktail made with amaretto - this is key, Southern Comfort, sloe gin, and orange juice. It is served in a Collins glass. It is also sometimes known as a Southern Slammer. This is a sweet, fruity drink.

And Mr. Sessions is hoping he doesn’t end up in the slammer! See, you can have some fun with this…


3/4 oz Sloe Gin, 3/4 oz Southern Comfort, 3/4 oz Amaretto, Orange juice


Pour Amaretto, sloe gin, and Southern Comfort into glass of ice. Fill with orange juice and stir.

Serve, on the rocks; poured over ice into a Tom Collins glass.


Maraschino Cherry, slice of Orange, or Lemon Wheel -- or all three!

You can substitute Jack Daniels for Southern Comfort and add in lime or lemon, and add Grenadine -- the main point is to make you see Red!
(In keeping with all the fury on both sides of the issue…. Ha!) 

How about watching the news with a new drink: The Recuser?!

This cocktail is from my upcoming book, Finishing Touches the Art of Garnishing the Cocktail - and it’s called the Mediterranean “Sunrise” in the book. But I thought it looks a bit like the Slammer. And besides, it’s delicious.


1 jigger ouzo

1 jigger tequila

8-12 ounces orange (or other fruit juice)

A few dashes of peach bitters or grenadine


Pour the juice into a tall glass over ice, top with the liquor so they float like some drifting iridescent Aegean sea plankton, followed by the bitters.


With speared fruit wedges and a red swizzle licorice stick! The licorice flavor complements ouzo’s anise for a pretty and fun presentation. Place the licorice swizzle sticks in a red glass for a shot of color to boost the cocktail composition, adding red and white or blue and white striped cocktail napkins. Stretches the American-ness of the proceedings, don’t you think?

Try ouzo with Kahlua for a wicked take on a “Fireball.”

Need a drink to celebrate bailing out the boat? Then there’s the Dark & Stormy made with dark rum and ginger beer - I very much like the Gosling’s brand of ginger beer.

And because all this hubbub is supposed to be about Russian spying or interference, after all, you can always soothe your anxieties with the classic cocktails: White or Black Russian (I’m calling this one, Glasnost). They are easy to make, quite luxurious and offer a lot of comfort. Interestingly, the White Russian made its way West in the 1930s with the proliferation of vodka’s appeal; the Black “Glasnost” sibling didn’t follow until 1949. Can’t go wrong with either drink.

White Russian


2/3 oz (2 parts) Coffee liqueur, such as Kahlua or --

1 2/3 oz (5 parts) Vodka - I suggest Royal Elite, or LIV , Tito's or Belvedere. I sampled the handcrafted 1857 Vodka last week at the Greenmarket - bought a bottle, too. But it doesn’t taste good… has a kind of cosmetic aftertaste that took over a martini - disrupting a prime feature of vodka - meaning it plays well with other flavors. Try the recommended vodkas - you won’t be disappointed.

1 oz (3 parts) Fresh cream or milk


Pour coffee liqueur and vodka into an Old Fashioned glass filled with ice. Pour the mix and float fresh cream -- or milk - on top and stir slowly. You can do this layering using the back of a spoon over the drink and slowly pouring the cream over the “sled” of the spoon.


What could be better than whipped cream? Well, topping the froth with fresh, shaved chocolate! Or a toasted marshmallow!

Black Russian or Glasnost


⅔ ounces or 2 parts Coffee liqueur - Kahlua or… 1 ⅔ (5 parts) vodka (see above recommendations)


Mix the ingredients into an old-fashioned glass, poured over ice cubes

Pour the ingredients into an old fashioned glass filled with ice cubes. Stir gently.

You can also add a splash of cola - to make it a kind of


Maraschino Cherry skewered on a diamond hat pin or similar-looking Shashka Sabre!


Thursday, June 8, 2017

RETRO Collection by Toni Sabatino for Baden Haus Debuts


RETRO Collection - Gotham City

Designers make dreams come true for their clients.

With the newly-launched RETRO Collection by Toni Sabatino Baden Haus - it is a kind of Italian two-cheek kiss.

See, it’s a dream come true for Toni - the interior design goddess - and a dream come true for Baden Haus’ clients and customers. And if I add in Baden Haus the company - well, that’s a lot more smooching.

Seriously, it was not a surprise to learn that it was amore at first sight between Toni and Baden Haus - (Baden Haus is based in Italy - therefore all the Italian nods to style and culture. Con affetto...)

I see the artistic relationship here as a bit of Carlo and Sophia; the Medicis and Michelangelo…
Fast forward to the finished product and one can almost see the mottoes suspended or floating above the Toni Sabatino designs whispering “classic, sensual sophistication, and enduring glamour.” I heard a show guest remarked, “This must’ve been designed by a woman.” Indeed. RETRO has all the right sensuality and smarts of the best divas.

This innovative collection is surely an expression of both brand’s guiding principles if there ever was one.

Viewing the premiere of the RETRO Collection at the recent International Contemporary Furniture Fair - ICFF show, I learned from Baden Haus Design Director, Marco Oddi, how the relationship first came about and the resulting collaboration.

(Full disclosure - designer Toni has become a solid Homegrown friend. I first met Toni through my first book: The Hamptons and Long Island Homegrown Cookbook - she contacted me to purchase some autographed copies so that she could add a special finishing touches to her kitchen design customers. See how thoughtful and detail-oriented she is? After more than a few of these Homegrown requests, I remarked to my husband, “Toni must be extremely successful - because she’s now buying the books by the case! Well, Toni is indeed successful, and our shared love of design, food and drink, cooking and gardens - soon led to a friendship.)

Marco and Roberto Osimi, Baden Haus officially met Toni at a Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) event in Las Vegas a year or so ago. Their shared design aesthetics melded much as their ready communication connections. “It was so easy to talk to Toni,” said Oddi.

The professional design respect is mutual.

Not long after, Toni found herself being whisked to Italy. But this was no Roman Holiday. It was a working session - while also a kind of first date, if you will.

See, while Toni got straight to the sketching and design phase of creating -- all of which you can see in the oversized RETRO brochure.
photo courtesy of Baden Haus 

Toni was also conducting a kind of mental check list with her new-found partners.

Did they work with her standards of high quality materials? Check.

Did the company treat its employees with respect and provide a good, healthy working environment? Check and check.

Toni learned how Baden Haus’ quality mission was evident in all phases of their production process. After all, Baden Haus, located in Centobuchi in the Le Marche region of Italy, has been making luxury Italian furniture designed for the bathroom or home spa since 1979.

Piazza in Centobuchi, Italy

In fact, Baden Haus is the largest independent Italian manufacturer of bathroom furniture. A kind of crowning achievement for a brand that prides itself on using only quality materials to produce products “that combine aesthetics and functionality.”

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

When I asked if they had to alter their legacy production process in order to make the RETRO Collection, Oddi explained the company’s factory team needed to add a few more steps to accommodate Toni’s design specs - especially the inside utility of the vanity cabinet and drawers -- features that Toni felt strongly about in terms of the user experience. The sleek one-touch sliding Blum drawer runners is one such example. “Beauty and product organization informed the drawer dynamic. Modularity and the option for “wall hanging or floor mount” are down to earth considerations that are built into the design - not an afterthought left to installers…

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

Gotham City -

photo courtesy Baden Haus

More details on the show floor: I love that Toni filled the frame with a photo of her son, Ricky. How sweet… Tells volumes about Toni’s passions and love that weave their way into her designs and dedication.

photo: Leeann Lavin

When I asked Toni how she came about this design process and how it might differ from her custom work for her clients, she readily responded that here she needed to consider what would appeal to a vast, global audience, versus that one client or couple.

Undaunted by the task, and rather than conduct some sterile research to determine what was trending or forecast to be hot looks, Toni relied on her years of experience. Take into consideration she’s been designing and working with makers and artisans for more than 30 years.

In fact, she embraced the opportunity to create swoon-worthy furniture that would reflect her accumulated design aesthetic - and trusted that market-making metier: Women’s Intuition. Her confidence and style makes RETRO an exalted addition that you just know you will want to live with…

The RETRO Collection consists of four distinct lines or as I refer to them: “conversations.”

These designs surely speak to you - especially when you learn the narratives and personalities behind the design process.

  • Gotham City
  • Gold Lame
  • Paisley Tie
  • Matte 
If you’re like me - the artful interior and exterior design elements you bring to your home offer enduring “conversations” between you and the beauty of the piece.

Not to mention with your house guests and family.

And I daresay - if you’re so lucky (and surely you will after selecting RETRO for your home) there will be the attendant magazine media and tour guests who visit your home to admire the designs.

Like us, after all our hard work and designing and thoughtful compilations - to be recognized by a leading magazine and our local historical society -- and then to be featured as a showhouse!

I have my eye on the RETRO Collection for a renovation of our Gotham jewel of an apartment. Stay tuned.

Already, Toni confirmed she’s sped’c out her RETRO designs to a number of her own clients -- to massive delight, no doubt.

So, back to the dreaming stage. Toni began with periods, places, and art that have long been her muses -- that would lend their “practicality and personality” to achieve a certain timeless RETRO frisson.

Gotham City

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

Gotham - aka New York City -- with its pulsating drama of iconic skyscrapers. She cites the Art Deco beauty of the Chrysler building, (my favorite), where you can almost hear Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” crescendoing in the background while gazing at these pieces - yet Toni swears it was the 80’s “Steam Punk” orchestration that inspired Gotham City’s moody industrial look. See how nuanced the art spectrum can be?

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

Gold Lame

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

Ok, this could be my favorite! Toni attributes this look to her “love of glamour and fashion of ‘Old Hollywood’. The golden shimmering glass brings that ‘golden age’ feel to the bath,” says the designer.

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

Paisley Tie

Photo courtesy of Baden Haus

Wait, this could be my favorite! I’ve often said, “I’m crazy for paisley!” so imagine what a design delight it was to view these sumptuous runway-worthy looks.

No one would disagree that I couldn’t write anything as witty as Oscar Wilde - a paisley aficionado -- and so I quote here from the RETRO catalog introduction to Paisly: “One should either be a work of art or wear a work of art.” Well, I might add: One could display a work of RETRO art! Maybe I am as witty as Mr. Wilde! See how RETRO inspires…

Seriously, I wish Paisley Tie was available when we redid our country house -- I did one of the bathrooms as all tailored luxe - I even called it, “The Bespoke Suit Bathroom.” Next time…
photo courtesy of Baden Haus
Toni wrote: The history of of this iconic pattern that has spanned centuries is quite colorful and I love it for its sophisticated arty, bohemianism.”

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

photo courtesy of Baden Haus


photo courtesy of Baden Haus

This RETRO conversation whispers Purity. A Balanchine Diamond in Jewels…

The black is all very dramatic and mysterious -- it seems to whisper dark secrets...

Toni reveals: “Timeless grace, simplicity and elegance. The panels have the look of wainscoting to create the mood of old world charm and tradition.

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

Who says things aren’t just so black and white in this world?

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

photo courtesy of Baden Haus

Toni is still floating on rainbows following the premiere. “I’m thrilled and overjoyed at this opportunity,” said the designer when I asked her how this felt to see her name on the boxes and in the catalog. Difficult to put into words…

photo: Leeann Lavin

photo: Leeann Lavin

As part of my post-show follow up reviews, I posed a series of detailed questions to Marco Oddi, Design Director at Baden Haus.

Here is an edited Q & A from our series of email exchanges.

Q. Can you tell me what your goals are for the line?

A. The RETRO Collection is fast becoming "Baden Haus's business card" for the North American market. We embraced the idea of presenting ourselves to the American and Canadian kitchen and bath enthusiasts - professional and consumer - with a very special project, and surely Toni's RETRO Collection can be considered a beautiful example of a special European and American collaboration or bond.
Q. Have you worked with a guest designer previously?

A. This was our first-ever project officially working together, or alongside a designer. In few previous Collections we have received advice (or input) from some Italian designers but we're just talking about small little conversations.

In the case of the RETRO Collection, we've met few times with Toni, in Italy and in the US, we have had long conversations. Furthermore, our internal Design Department has been in contact with Toni on a daily basis for many months. We wanted to make sure that every single little aspect had been reviewed and that no detail had been neglected.

Q. Do you have plans to do more of this kind of line in the future - meaning working with a stable of designers to continue the success working with a guest designer?

A. Yes. This RETRO Collection experience that we are living now is surely something we want to do again. We hope to create something with a strong, design-orientated personality who is very stimulating - and it's our idea and are planning to come out with something else later on.

Q. Is this Retro line available globally?

A. Absolutely! The RETRO Collection has already been displayed in several showrooms across the globe. Our clients have appreciated very much the effort that Baden Haus has made with this project. The feedback is confirming that the company is really taking the company to a different level.
Retro Collection is available in the all 32 Countries where today we distribute our Baden Haus brand.

Q. How long does a line remain available?

A. Normally four to five years but really it depends on the style, the distribution, and other, varied aspects or elements.
With regard to RETRO, it seems it’s more a "Timeless Collection" as Toni likes to describe it; so who knows, RETRO might be available on the market for longer than that!

How to get your RETRO

One can purchase the RETRO Collection pieces all together for a complete ensemble -- or you can purchase separately; building the look in a modular way. Toni designed the pieces to layer and personalize - not unlike selecting from your wardrobe to create a glamorous, memorable ensemble.

This thoughtful detail gives the designer and consumer the added value of customizing their ultimate home design.

The vanity cabinets are available in basic white or black - and the insets for the tops and drawers come in the four jewel-like Collection “conversations.”

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

The LED mirrors are a kind of fairytale magic - with anti-fogging, BlueTooth speakers and magnifying mirror. All with a sweep of dramatic shaped design to complement the vanity styles. No more hunting for a swanky mirror to hold the look together. (Heretofore there’s been an overabundance of square and round and ok, oval…) But now the mirror elegance can claim some true design CV of its own.

How sexy is this? And the mirror too!

photo Leeann Lavin

Prices range from approximately $1,600 to $6,900. With final investments determined by style, size, and the number of elements (vanity cabinet, mirror, sink, floating storage cupboard, and surface-top style selected for a final version.

All the elements in the RETRO Collection will be shipped from a local U.S. distributor location in the Garden State.

What’s better than designing a line of extraordinary collection of bath vanities with a major Italian manufacturer dedicated to quality and premiering at a distinctive New York Furniture show?

Sharing the exhilarating achievement and happiness with friends and family.

Designer Toni Sabatino (R) and daughter Elise. photo: Leeann Lavin

Elise, Designer & Mother - Toni -- with soon to be mother, Amanda & son Ricky

Now that’s a collection!