Friday, April 6, 2018

Cocktail Conversations with Plants & Trees? Yessss! Learn the Language of Plants

Photo: Peter Wohlleben presentation screenshot
Did you know that trees nurture their offspring; that they wage war, that their roots are like brains, and that they feel pain? (That fresh cut grass is actually a cry for help!)

These concepts and more were presented at The New York Botanical Garden at the Fifth Annual Humanities Institute Symposium: Plant Intelligence.

I had a conflict in my work schedule and woefully regretted to have to miss this recent lecture at The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) when I read the invitation in the Adult Education brochure.
This is what grabbed my attention, in a big way:
“Trees may appear to be strong and silent, but they can “talk” -- to one another, to other plants, ad to animals and insects. Discover how trees communicate via chemical signals in the air to warn each other of insect attacks, as well as through complex fungal networks underground to transfer nutrients and resources to one another - and sometimes to assist their sick tree ‘family members.’”

See, I’ve been working on a children’s book -- and in my story the plants talk to one another - and to the fauna and insects -- and yes, some deserving humans.  In my children’s writing class, I’ll never forget how one man couldn’t abide that plants could talk -- he thought it too unbelievable even for a child to imagine. I reminded him that his story was about a talking truck (!) and wondered how that was so plausible…
More on the challenging world of writing a children’s book soon. I only wanted to bring it up here as it fuels my passion for learning more about how plants do indeed talk.  And they have a lot to say...

My intense interest in plant language is not a reference to the previously kooky scenario of folks talking to their houseplants - chatting up their begonias and African Violets to insure better growth.  No. We're talking science and adventure and exploration of new worlds.

This emerging field of study is rather a consequence of advanced technology and testing that allows us to more readily understand how plants communicate.
You could say it’s like the rosetta stone - except it’s more of a "rosetta or Rose plant" - a bit of our human first steps into the mystery of understanding plant language.
It’s not them - it’s us! We just needed the tools to better communicate with them.

The lecture at NYBG featured the irrepressible Peter Wohlleben, author of The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate,

And Stefano Mancuso, author of Brilliant Green and Plant Revolution  (who, as I understand it, was socked in due to weather and unable to present.)

and Janet Browne, Historian of Science, Harvard University was the moderator.

In the video, Janet notes it has long been common that plants don’t communicate, nor do they have the ability to think or move. To whit: the “couch potato” and “vegging out!”
Ouch - that’s not nice.

On the other hand, horticulturists long believed plants possessed parallel functions to animals.
Enter Carl Linnaeus and Charles Darwin to change people’s minds about plants and their sex lives!

At the lecture, Peter helps us understand plant life - a world brimming with activity and communication. 
We learn plants communicate on a time scale that is different from ours. Meaning trees, especially, take a looooongg time. After all, they live a long time.  He cautioned tree huggers to be patient. 
Plants are living indicators of an unknown world of communications - they are sophisticated - and not just sedentary animals, as some have ignorantly referred to them as.

I think you’ll be fascinated by the presentation: Peter has a great sense of humor when discussing the plants’ and trees’ communication capabilities (you’ll laugh at his description of how a tree “eliminates!” Ahem.

You’ll be touched learning how they can reflect emotions and feelings and bond for life with their tree family. 
Trees have memory. 
Offspring learn from the parents. 
Peter provided the example of a young sapling that doesn’t drop its leaves soon enough and the winter snows and frost cracks the wood - and it feels pain - but the offspring learns from its nearby parent when to drop its leaves next time when the season demands.

Technology can now register radioactive sugar molecules permitting us the ability to track how a mother tree can talk to and nurture her offspring.  For example, she won’t take as much water during a dry summer in order to feed her child… 
Moreover, plants have the ability for kin recognition. Incredible...
Here is the link to the entire video of Peter's talk:

During the Q&A, when asked if he had any direct communication with a tree, Peter replied without missing a beat - saying  "All of us have -- albeit via a one-way communication." 
What?  How's that? 
Yes, he says research shows that our blood pressure lowers when we walk among trees. 
Trees act like medicine, he added. 
What have trees taught him?  Patience.  Living more than 200 years can have that effect...

More cool tree talk: Oaks can send out “fear branches” when surrounded by beech trees that are intent on killing the oak. There are "gang wars" in the plant kingdom! 
Bark beetles hurt the trees. 
Beech can taste the saliva of deer and can begin a wound-healing action.

Besides roots as brains and a kind of communication internet for plants, fungal networks act like neural networks - adding a method for how trees communicate in a kind of two-way/win-win symbiotic relationship with the fungi.

Trees and plants have instincts and reflexes - just like animals - and their emotions are drivers of their instincts. Isn’t that fascinating to discover? 

Plants have social lives and can learn from experience as they struggle for resources and interact with their environment. 

What Plants Talk About

The weather? The new neighbors? Like us, plants have a lot to say.

Yet another plant talk “must see” is a favorite of mine: The PBS documentary, What Plants Talk About. The visuals are breathtaking. The time lapse videos of plant communication, the interaction of plants and pollinators and predators is stunning. It’s discoveries are that “whoa, how’d they capture that,” mesmerizing images.  Click on the image and link above to watch the documentary.

I highly recommend you grab some popcorn and sit back and enjoy this astonishing look at the plant world just beckoning for more research, exploration, and the opportunity to talk to us.

Here’s the documentary overview:
“When we think about plants, we don't often associate a term like "behavior" with them, but experimental plant ecologist JC Cahill wants to change that. The University of Alberta professor maintains that plants do behave and lead anything but solitary and sedentary lives. What Plants Talk About teaches us all that plants are smarter and much more interactive than we thought!”

Networks Plus 

Speaking of working together, while I have you, I thought you’d like to know about a new partnership at the Garden. NYBG has teamed up with one of my favorite enterprises: Blue Apron, the pioneering meal-kit company. Both will promote community well-being and raise awareness of the benefits of sustainable gardening and cooking with fresh ingredients. How nice is that?

As part of Blue Apron's commitment to making delicious home cooking accessible and bringing families and communities together, Blue Apron is aligning with NYBG's Edible Academy, a new state-of-the-art garden-based education facility that will open on June 14, 2018.

The partnership includes seasonally rotating kid-friendly educational signage in the Edible Academy's Green Thumb Gardens, used by school groups, drop-in families, and community visitors.

Now you can bring the children to the Edible Academy, enjoy a true “happy meal” -- all while having a lovely conversation with the nearby plants and trees.


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Dining by Design DIFFA Tablescapes at the Architectural Digest Design Show

Benjamin Moore’s “Caliente” Dining by Design Tablescape

The Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA) Dining by Design tablescapes are an over the top, giddy highlight of the annual Architectural Digest Show. While this is a fundraiser and a serious cause that deserves our continued support, t’s a key feature of the AD Show and shouldn’t be missed. If you love tablescapes and table designs and entertaining - this is the Architectural Digest Show you must see. 

Our press tour provided a sneak peek of the styled vignettes with a poignant AIDS message rendered in a tablescape design, with access to the designers who shared their inspiration and design elements.

Benjamin Moore. (I have these same Moroccan candles in a variety of gem tones!) The Caliente color was a radiant highlight of the “Night in Tangiers” tablescape theme.

The most romantic, dreamy tablescape was created by one of my favorites: Ralph Lauren Home. Their entry was inspired by Lauren’s Paris courtyard restaurant. The blue-hued vignette featured four different patterns to mix and match: new blue ticking, the brand’s new blue and white graphic Cote d'Azur plates that look crisp and inviting as a classic still life - especially with the blue and white hydrangea centerpiece. Lauren also introduced basket weave wine totes with blue and white linings. Loved the campaign table composition with the wine totes and accessories.

Crate & Barrel Tablescape design amplifies the brand’s iconic ampersand - and a clean, sophisticated, graphic look in the brand's endiuring Black and White color combo. Emerald green banquettes are available as a classic, custom-design, and all the other products are for purchase now.

The porcelain radial design at Florim4Architects who partnered with Studio TK/Teknion included a "timeless" and fabulous creative: a round dining pavilion featuring the brand’s porcelain tiles in shades of grey on a low table with seat puffs. The napkin rings are a stroke of genius -- watches! The timepieces amplify the time theme. All the tabletop items are Crate & Barrel.

One Kings Lane - a serene space inspired by a Moroccan theme with lots of layers and their outdoor rattan furniture.

The Sunbrella tablescape was warm and more formal tablescape, featuring their iconic sunset/sunrise turquoise and orange colors. Love the ranunculus floral centerpieces flanked by artful gallery busts by . The chairs were covered in embroidered names of famous artists.

This whimsical twist on a Vermeer Dutch master was elegant and sophisticated is from the Rottet Studio. Note the classic fruit and flower still life centerpiece. A mix of black and plum colors in lacquer and other finishes; grape wisteria accessorize the walls; Fendi Casi chairs are sublime.  And the twist on the "Girl with a Pearl" painting is hilarious - look close and you see she's wearing a plastic bag on her head! Love it.

Inspired by Spring is Luxe Magazine’s fantasy cocoon designed by Wesley Moore. From the floral chandelier to the Cowtan & Tout fabrics and layered china -- this is an inspired display.

Be sure to spend time at the DIFFA tablescape show for ideas and entertainment. In addition, you can bid on the silent auction items. It’s for a good cause.

And what could be more key to tablescapes than the actual table?  In a gesture of true "Table Manners" - Top Reveal's senior editor, Kate Evans, saw this post and reached out to tip me off to her curated list of top table furniture finds for the home.  Thanks for the Garden Glamour, love, Kate!  I like your style! And after perusing your list, I am hard-pressed to choose which one I like best; however I am taken with the Chevron, Vintage, and Classy Round designs.  Those looks called out to me.

Back to DIFFA. A portion of the proceeds from all ticket sales benefits Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA). To learn more about DIFFA, visit I did two years ago and while it was a nail-biter of a finale - and more than a bit over my budget (!) - I have never regretted the purchase and adore my peacock Lenox china service; the table settings are an enduring, delightful, and elegant design element to my own inspired tablescapes.

To purchase tickets, visit


DIFFA Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS raises awareness and grants funds to organizations that fight HIV/AIDS by providing treatment and direct-care services for people living with or impacted by the disease, offering preventative education programs targeted to populations at risk of infection, or supporting public policy initiatives. DIFFA is one of the largest funders of HIV/AIDS service and education programs in the U.S., mobilizing the immense resources and creativity of the design community. Since its founding in 1984, DIFFA has emerged from a grassroots organization into a national foundation based in New York City with chapters and community partners across the country that working together provided more than $42 million to hundreds of HIV/AIDS organizations nationwide. To learn more, visit

Friday, March 23, 2018

Architectural Digest AD Design Show 2018 Sneak Peek

Gaggenau Arftul Refrigerator Introduction at AD Design Show 

Architectural Digest
Magazine’s annual confab is truly one of the best presentations for home decor, design, and tablescapes and is a rare event that appeals to both the professional designers and the home enthusiast.

The press preview day provides us reporters & bloggers with a sneak peek so that we can give give you, our audience and subscribers, an experienced road map to deliver the best possible experience.

If you love designing your home; cannot stop watching HGTV or have a lifetime subscription to all the shelter magazines, including Architectural Digest, of course, as well as Elle Decor, House Beautiful, Garden Design, Dwell and subscribe to a plethora of design blogs, (hopefully, my Garden Glamour and She Knows), then this show is your happy place.

This weekend, the AD Show is open to the public. You can experience talks, lectures, one-on-ones with designers and makers from over 400 brands, and bask in the glory of creative home design -- interior -- and some exterior elements.

Get your tickets at the show or here

After touring the show, I feel there are two key Trends:.
  • Technology and Art
  • Form and Function
  • Lighting 
While there’s no doubt that that these trends have been spooning for some time, this year it seemed that love had truly blossomed.

What does that mean?

Overall, all the brands have Apps - either their own or their own that work in concert with Alexis and Nest to provide customized management and control. From Baldwin’s keyless entry and security to the kitchen manufacturer’s appliances -- start up your dishwasher on the way home or take your guests’ coffee preferences a la Starbucks to create a barista home experience.

Coffee stations were big on the trend list. Ahh, for us java lovers, this is just next to food porn.

An extraordinare example of art and technology is seen at Gaggenau who premiered refrigerators that were handle-less - opened with a touch of the hand. Magic? Perhaps.

The art element was astonishing. Gaggenau showed a refrigerator with surface art rendered by the Los Angeles large format artist,Rob Hill

Flanked by wine coolers on either side of the artful refrigerator with a particularly cool element: a pull out tray - set to serve up to guests!  I like it.

Gaggenau told us they’d work with any artist to apply the art to the refrigerator front. Your own art? Your children’s art project? A photo of your favorite nature spot or … The possibilities are endless, really and quite exciting.

I just adore this design element. So many options to customize and express your own design aesthetic.

Gaggenau also showed a deep, New York black classic, no handles refrigerator. After all, black is the new - well, black. Love this.

The Sous Vide appliance built-in Gaggenau showcased appeals to not only the classic (french) chef in all of us who adore that precise level of ingredients but also to the home culinary enthusiasts who prefer to prepare or have delivered portion control recipe packs. 
Booth 387, 393.

Thermador showcased their Masterpiece Collection that included their Freedom induction option, and using the same home app as their sister company Gaggenau, Home Connect, you can curate everything in the kitchen from content to cooktop to wine coolers to telling the ventilation hood system to turn on and coordinate with the cooktop.

TFT displays are ubiquitous.

Remote start option are the cool control.  Even in home door locks.  Baldwin Hardware - known for their hand-crafted door and cabinet hardware (we have a gorgeous Baldwin on our front door) showed their new line they created in collaboration with a California designer, Erinn V and her line of Hollywood Hills.

New technology in their other lines of prestige products include one-touch door open using an App.  Very nice feature. And good looking products to fit a variety of home designs.

The Thermador dishwashers feature star sapphire theater lights - but now, consumers tell Thermidor they want more of an entertainment dishwasher so more light colors are available on the App. Why not?
 Thermador's big refrigerator is in a kind of "camo!"

The dishwashers are now available are a faster drying element - generates heat (they acknowledge can’t dry plastic entirely - but hey - hopefully you’ve been weaned off of plastic by this point.) and their largest-ever glass capability - up to 24 glasses on the top and bottom.
Booth 387,393.

On the other end of the size spectrum, the company’s Bosche lineup featured products tailor made for smaller, city-sized kitchens. These kitchen suite home appliances can fit a metro apartment with a dishwasher and cooktop and refrigerator that appear big and sleek, with up to 30% more storage than previously available.
Booth 387, 393.

Lighting design innovations were led by a relatively new company, Kings Haven who prior to launching their own artisanal, family-fueled enterprise, have many year and projects as part of their historic and estate restoration pedigree. Now, they create custom lighting, accessories, and furniture. The company’s presentation and products and hospitality is all first-class.  

Be sure to check them out at Booth 714.
Lighting is everything in creating a dramatic home decor. Just ask any Hollywood or Broadway designer or actor.

I love the quality and hand-craftsmanship of Rangecraft - a Garden State stalwart who glamourize a cooktop hood like nobody does. There’s the Swarovski Crystal hood that is sigh-worthy. And their new clock hood and antique finishes that can be distressed to your desire. Nice custom design feature and service. Note: the company rightfully extols their craftsman and the five year apprenticeship training program.
And Rangecraft is now the official partner of the NY Jets.
Booth 485.

Also not to be missed is a favorite design artist: Dagmar Weinberg. I was smitten with Dagmar’s art the first time I encountered her transfixing, erotic and utterly unique photographs a few years’ ago. I’m now the proud owner of an original Dagmar cherry blossom art work. Sighhh… It’s so beautiful. You can view and buy Dagmar’s photography manipulated art as well as her new silk scarves. With quality top of mind, Dagmar did not just get any old anybody to craft her artful scarves. No. She researched and invested with the same artisans who do the Hermes and Vuitton scarves. Dagmar is offering a special show price - so be sure to take advantage and get your wearable art. It’s enduring and luxurious. Booth 417.

And Pennoyer & Newman -- just back from their Parisian triumph - are at the show again this year with a line of splendid handcrafted planters, containers, and sculpture that you can add to your garden art compositions. I use them as often as I can with my garden design clients - adding a sophisticated, timeless look. Plus, I just love that Virginia …

I will write more in a next post about the Diffa by Design showcase at the AD Show. The tablescapes are created by a number of artisans and brands to showcase “over the top” table art and dining environments - and to raise monies for AIDS awareness and to fund organizations that provide treatment and care services. Stay tuned for this - one of my most favorite elements of the AD Show.

Echo Design showcased their scarves, home decor bedding, as well as the professional lines of indoor and outdoor fabrics and wallpaper.  New for tablescapes is the collection of jewel-toned placements that are high quality basket weave with stitching. This will be great to use in a number of bold tablescape narratives.

Love these sunrise/sunset color fabric options at Echo.  Plus I got to meet and pose with the grande dame of Echo, Dorothy Roberts!  What an honor.

Now, as a garden designer, I'm not bullish on artificial "plant material."  However, I'm open-minded and can appreciate the need to use in certain applications. Think rooftops, too shady, and now with climate chaos: too much deer or too much salt water and well, the concept is ahem, growing on me.  I discovered New Growth Designs who are showing some very impressive faux plant looks.  I learned the company has been in business for more than 70 years, still does fresh flowers, and as the principle Ed Glenn told me, they were doing so well with their silk floral designs that many landscape architects and designers asked them to make garden products in the faux material.  The booth has topiaries, faux turf - a black and white with grass checkerboard (like one of my garden design clients has - except with real turf), and green "walls."   There is surely a place for these products.

It was a pleasure to meet Alex Puddy the British principle at his UK-based Architectural Heritage who's returned to the show after a seven-year hiatus.  And with a name like Puddy - he's just something out of Paddington Bear.  Nice learning about his artisanal process and dedication to quality products.  His planters are first-rate and so are his garden sculptures.  I love the look.  And so do the Rockefellers...

I'm also keen for the MADE suite of artisanal craftspeople and their unique design concepts.
New to me this year is a very creative new planter composition created by the architect principle, Drew at Prism Planters by the Principle.  The shiny corten steel planters are modular and can be customized to your garden site in three gem-like colors: bronze, silver, and well, black.  I love the bench.


Nourison at Booth 419 featured some very, very luxurious and glamorous rugs and pillows.
My favorite was the glittery malachite!  

And is there a place for this gold, stenciled, cowhide rug?

Just get to the show and see for yourself!

Such glamorous design. 
How adorabley-fashiony is this Smeg refrigerator with a Dolce & Gabbana look?!

You can walk the show, dine and shop and bask in all the decorative arts all weekend long.  Don't miss it. 


Some of the must see items as noted by the AD Show include:
The AD Apartment - presenting bold ideas and "sophisticated solutions for cosmopolitan design enthusiasts - with a contemporary loft vignette.

Designer Focus:  A clutch of designers come together in this new section to showcase four distinct interiors.  Here you can see how their creativity interprets the space. Plus you can meet the designers. 

Associative Design:   This was organized by the Portuguese Association of Wood and Furniture Industries (AIMMP) - another new installation.  Here the mix of "design, innovation, and technology" celebrates the artisanal craftspeople who create and make furniture, lighting, and objets d'art. 

Highlights and featured areas at the show include:

REFRESH: As one of the largest collections of kitchen, bath, luxury appliances, and premium building products in North America, this section features introductions from more than 75 companies. Attendees will discover new technologies and state-of-the-art designs in kitchen appliances and cabinetry, bath, decorative hardware, countertops, stone, tile surfaces, doors, and more. This year’s exhibitors include Artistic Tile, Aster Cucine, Cesar NY, DACOR, Jenn-Air, Miele, Porcelanosa, Rocky Mountain Hardware, Rohl, and Sub-Zero and Wolf to name a few.

FURNISH: An expanding assemblage of contemporary and classic furniture, lighting, carpets and rugs, decorative accessories, textiles, and art completes the offering. Attendees will find great design for residential settings from companies such as Atelier de Troupe, Benjamin Moore, Costantini, Hunter Douglas, KOKET, Perigold, The New Traditionalists, and Warp & Weft. The section touts an impressive mix of brands from Europe and Asia including Royal Botania, Sony Life Space UX, and Vaughan Designs.

MADE: The juried MADE section is a resource for handcrafted, often limited edition or one-of-a-kind furnishings, accessories, and art pieces. More than half of the 2018 exhibitors are new to the fair. This year’s lineup gathers emerging talent from across the country including local Made-in-New York pieces by Avram Rusu Studio, Birnam Wood Studio, Consort Design, and Slash Objects; California-based makers like Chris Earl, Coil and Drift, Michael Felix, Natan Moss, and Nate Cotterman; and international artisans such as Paul Emile Rioux and Simon Johns.

SHOPS: The show offers a retail boutique of décor, gifts, tabletop accessories, objets d’art, and more, available for immediate purchase from brands including Ariana Ost, Borough Furnace, Christophe Pourny, Hazel Village, KONZUK, Night Space, Richard Clarkson Studio LLC, and Rikumo.

The Dacor Stage: Presented by Dacor, the show’s new theater space will be a prime destination for those looking to further immerse themselves in the design world. Attendees will have the exclusive opportunity to hear from the world’s top design leaders on a variety of topics. Speakers include Aerin Lauder, Alexa Hampton, David Monn, Ellie Cullman, Genevieve Gorder, India Hicks, Jason Oliver Nixon & John Loecke, Jeffrey Bilhuber, and Victoria Hagan. The panel discussions and programming segments will take place throughout all four days of the show. In addition, Architectural Digest Editor in Chief, Amy Astley, will lead a keynote discussion on Saturday, March 24.

The programming will be complemented by a variety of in-booth events, including culinary demonstrations with chefs from around the world, book signings, product presentations, and more.

General Admission tickets Friday through Sunday are available for $30 online or $40 at the door. VIP Consumer Tickets on Thursday are available for $95. Admission is complimentary to the design trade with two forms of business credentials via online pre-registration. To purchase tickets, visit

Design This Look: How to Create an Elegant Garden-Green St. Patrick's Tablescape - with a Nod to Irish Ladies in Literature

Where to begin when setting out to design a green-themed, St. Patrick’s Day styled Tablescape?

Put on your emerald earrings and bracelet, of course!

Then, plan your tablescape outline. For me, this design was not to be a major presentation. After all, I wasn’t planning a dinner party or brunch for guests. It was for Bill and me.

It was to be a kind of transition from the more elaborate Lunar New Year & Valentine’s Day Ladies Who Lunch composition I created in early February (that post soon to follow) and to a full-on Spring and Easter tablescape.

In terms of a St. Patrick’s Day Tablescape, I wanted to pursue a design that was relatively cost-conscious. I challenged myself to get many of the elements from the grocery store or the second-time around shop in the small town where our country house is - versus shopping the emporium on Broadway, the floral district here in Gotham, or the internet, as I usually do.

I already knew I wanted to create a glamorous look that emphasized the Emerald Isle’s artful heritage (rather than all that green-beer, leprechaun-goofy insults to a culture that gave us great gardens, a patrimony of enduring, artisanal decor and design, and of course, world-class literature.

It was to be a natural. Irish tell stories like nobody else (except maybe for US Southerners, but in the end, even they claim it’s an Irish storytelling tradition). And tablescapes tell stories.
I just needed to create a narrative that would honor the Irish culture…

So here I had my outline or concept for this tablescape design.

And while (hopefully) most know many of the great Irish writers, I was willing to bet that very few would know of Ireland’s cohort of great female writers. I wanted to get some of their books to use as a prop or design element but more importantly to use as a conversation starter.

I started by researching the writers.

You can have your Brian Friel, Yeats, Shaw, Beckett, James Joyce, and the irrepressible Oscar Wilde, but this year, celebrating the Irish, I turned to those overlooked in the pantheon of world-class Irish writers.
Here's what I found:

Eavan Boland is an Irish poet.
Works Written: Object lessons, Three Irish Poets, After Every War +more
Birthplace: Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Edna O'Brien is a writer.
Works Written: The Country Girls, Oh! Calcutta!, Girl with Green Eyes +more
Birthplace: Tuamgraney, Republic of Ireland

Marina Carr is an Irish playwright. Born in Tullamore, County Offaly, Carr grew up in a household filled with literature.
Works Written: By the Bog of Cats, The Mai, On Raftery's Hill Birthplace: County Offaly, Birthplace: Republic of Ireland

Patricia Lynch was an Irish author of children's literature and a journalist. She was the author of some 48 novels and 200 short stories. She is best known for blending Irish rural life and fantasy as in The Turf-Cutter's Donkey

Elizabeth Bowen was an Anglo-Irish novelist and short story writer.
Works Written: The Heat of the Day, The Last September, Eva Trout and more
Birthplace: Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Now, to implement the literal "look book" or "book look!"

I thought I’d get paperbacks of the literature to stack on the table. However, despite a number of online searches and phone calls to local bookstores, no books were to be found. Sigh.
The library yielded one book by a contemporary Irish female writer: The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright. I took it.

Next, on to the grocery store to buy the flowers: baby’s breath and light green carnations to create a fresh green and crisp white look. I was already the lucky recipient of an oxalis, four-leaf clover plant that my Mother, Virginia gifted me. I had a sparkly green pot that worked perfectly in size and decor to hold the plant. This would be the centerpiece.

At the grocery store I was also looking for the gold coin candies to create a pot of gold but had to settle for gold-wrapped chocolates. I added real dollar coins to the gold, spray-painted “pot” to the final look and it worked. 
Pot of Gold and Special Spuds elevate the Irish Tablescape
What else in the green realm? Fresh, green, Granny Smith apples, of course! And kiwi fruit. With some edible orchids as a color and taste contrast.

Later, it was a treat to eat the green kiwi with the edible orchids and mandarin oranges.
Edible orchid and Green Kiwi 
I also got some pretty potatoes to use in the design as a kind of twist on a Irish trope. By “honoring” the spuds in a cut glass candy dish, it too worked - not only in good looks but as a conversation piece, which is a key reason for creating a compelling tablescape in the first place.

Next stop was the local second time around shop. Here, there are items that are a kind of curiosity shop discoveries that I can repurpose.
Rows and stacks of curious things just waiting 

And the staff is something out of Harry Potter!

I found green glass plates. But not a matched set of six or even four. When all seemed lost, I decided I’d just mix and match the two different styled plates. 

I found some pretty, inexpensive lace, doilies that would work for a mix-matched nod to the art of Irish linens.

I found a female bust I thought would be a delightful part of the female writer narrative. Yes! I was on a roll.
I sprang for a green glass vase. Can’t have too many flower showpieces, right?

It was time to head home and assemble the tablescape story.

I asked Alexa to play traditional Irish music as a mood influencer and made another pot of coffee to enjoy some Irish Coffee made with Baileys Irish Cream. Hey, tablescaping should be fun.

At the same time, I looked around my home “inventory” and dipped into the clutch of table setting items for sure, as well as looked around at other things - both decorative and performance - that I re-purposed. That's fun, too. (And you can kinda' purge at the same time!)

I love our antique dining table and try not to tablecloth it. And here, for the “wearin’ of the green,” I left more of the deep wood to shine out because the brown wood contrast with the elements of glass and green would be quietly dramatic. Further, I wasn’t setting the table for a full dinner party.

The flowers were placed in the clear glass place setting mini vases, grouped in a kind of holy trinity on each side of the table to balance off the centerpiece. The vases looked nice with the baby’s breath as halo to the green carnations. 

As an aside, I use carnations frequently - they last a long time, smell wonderful, are available in a variety of colors that play well with all kinds of decor from sophisticated to casual.
I put out some of our lace embroidered linen cocktail napkins to accessorize the look.  Overall, I prefer the “substance” of a linen napkin. Yes, they can be more work but this is entertaining - you want the best for you and your loved ones. Plus, you can readily wash them, saving the planet from all that one-time-use paper.  And the linens last for generations...

My green, silver and enamel demitasse cups - that look almost like jewelry - along with the gemstone spoons called out to me to join the party. Perfect!

As were the Waterford crystal glasses. If you don’t know, the crystal manufacturer is named after the city of Waterford in Ireland.

The piece de resistance? I had just received the crown music boxes that I’d ordered the first week of February -- that’s another story entirely! 

But they are gorgeous: little crosses on top, solid silver in appearance, dotted with “diamonds” - very regal and a perfect visual to help tell a story about Ireland and Irish knights and fairy tales and stories. Best of all, the music boxes open, where I can surprise my guests with a delicious amuse bouche when they pull back the top!

I saw our silver after-dinner cups that look like they were taken from a table at Camelot - and voila! They complemented the crowns like a Celtic cross!

I pulled two green candles that have a stenciled pattern on the glass. These beauties amplified the oxalis green centerpiece.

I went to our home library and pulled a few garden books that featured “green” in the title and that were written by women. I especially was drawn to my garden writer friend, Anne Raver. More conversation starters...

I liked the composition. The female bust highlighted the books at the head of the table. The green-leaf neck band that my niece Marissa made worked as a kind of "garden" at her base.
Bill liked the look too, and after walking around the table, he then suggested that “she” needed a necklace. 
The man has taste when it comes to jewelry. (Did you see my new Eternity ring?!) 
I scooted up to my jewelry boxes and found a Little LimeⓇ hydrangea-colored green sparkly necklace.
It is a perfect Finishing Touch. Along with that Irish Whisky from Jameson. Wink, wink. The pedigree and the green bottle is a fun design touch.

The table is inviting and pretty -- it’s a delight to just look at. It tells a great story. And it welcomes you and guests.
Enjoy the video walk-around (sorry about the tilting at the end.  But you'll get the idea and look)  

You can create a thoughtful, sophisticated, whimsical tablescape like this. The creative design doesn’t take a lot of time and uses cost-conscious grocery-store bought flowers, candy, vegetables, and fruit - along with repurposing items from your home. And it’s fun.
Entertaining should always delight you - and your guests.  And if you can't bring yourself to create such a composition - contact me.  It would be my great pleasure to work with you via Facetime or email to tell your own story and to create your own tablescape fantasy.

Slánte! -- “To your Health” in Gaelic.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Metro Hort Group Elects New President: Charles M. Yurgalevitch, Ph.D

Charles M. Yurgalevitch, Newly Elected Metro Hort President 
Recently, Metro Hort Group Inc, the Mid-Atlantic association of horticulture professionals elected Charles M. Yurgalevitch, Ph.D. as its new president to lead the organization for a three-year term, the first such tenure in its history. Previously, Yurgalevitch served as Secretary on the Metro Hort Board Member since 2004.
By all counts, Yurgalevitch is the seventh president since the group was founded.

The brainchild of three professional horticulturists in 1986, Metro Hort launched its first meeting of “charter members” and established its Planning Board in 1987.

Soon to follow its incorporation as a 501 (c) in 1988, the Metro Hort Guest speaker series launched - and still held at winter meetings along with the seasonal field trips to all variety of horticultural venues including private gardens, parks, zoos, cemeteries, botanical gardens and nurseries. Workshops began in 1993 taught “by professionals, for professionals” on topics ranging from garden photography to rooftop gardening, pruning, CAD technology, and more. The signature horticultural trade show and symposium, Plant-O-Rama was launched in 1997.

During a recent interview, Yurgalevitch talked about his vision and upcoming agenda for Metro Hort moving forward.

In a macro sense, he is looking to lend Metro Hort’s expertise to help shape a community-wide agenda to influence greener, healthier, environmental attitudes and behaviours. “We can further establish Metro Hort’s leadership and its advocacy for sustainable practices in business and government,” Yurgalevitch explained. “We have a unique platform to affect a determined path to a plant-based, sustainable way of life, especially in a world that is increasingly urban. Plants and horticulture touch every vital element of our lives from food to water resources, pollution management, to architecture and art -- to the very air we breath,” he continued.

In turn, this outlook will increasingly appeal to the next generation - upcoming green professionals who seek to be vital members of Metro Hort.

Yurgalevitch has been a pioneer in leading younger, green industry professionals from his position as Director of the School of Professional Horticulture at The New York Botanical Garden and as the creator of the now annual, Green Industry Intern Field Day - affectionately referred to as “Hortie Hoopla.”

“We see burgeoning activists in our ranks who want to make changes in the way we interact with our parks and gardens, how we grow and harvest our food, how we safeguard our shores and wetlands and preserve the flora and fauna for future generations, especially in a world of climate chaos and science skeptics,” he added.

With a determined effort to develop “Plant Ambassadors,” Yurgalevitch will seek to challenge Metro Hort’s members and solicit new members with exciting, trailblazing programs and updated processes.

Membership goals also include an effort to revise, revamp, and refresh the organization’s web site and social media practices, including more visuals and video to engage its members and the wider, public community.

Already, the group has added a Local Events Calendar where anyone - members as well as non-members - can post horticultural events of interest, gratis.

The networking and educational talks and workshops and field trips will continue its tradition of excellence with the added objective of highlighting topics of import and interest - meaning those issues that are salient to today’s diverse and fast-moving culture, including aquaponics, technology in horticulture and design, plant propagation and care especially given today’s increasing dramatic climate swings, and visits to innovative and enterprising hort-based initiatives and businesses that are sure to spark learning and collaboration.

The group’s website provides its background description:

Metro Hort Group, Inc. is an association of horticulture professionals practicing in the New York City and tri-state region. Members are active in the worlds of public and private horticulture; we are landscape architects, designers, arborists, growers, educators, contractors, garden writers and every specialty in between. We create and deliver a greener New York. The professional sponsor meetings, lectures, workshops and field trips geared to common interests, with a focus on education, networking and socializing.

Metro Hort members gather to share ideas, information and employment opportunities. Each member receives a detailed listing in our online membership directory, an invaluable resource for horticulture professionals. Membership in Metro Hort Group offers the opportunity to stay connected in these challenging economic times.

To learn more about becoming a member of the Metro Hort Group, visit the membership page.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The New York Botanical Garden Unveils Commissioned Installations by Renowned Belgian Floral Artist, Daniel Ost, for their 16th Annual Orchid Show Launching March 3

Yesterday was the annual Press Preview for The New York Botanical Garden’s (NYBG) premiere exhibit, the Orchid Show. Orchids are the “eye candy” of the plant world and I’d be hard-pressed to name a single soul that doesn’t find them completely irresistible.

Their dazzling colors, shapes, “faces,” fragrance, mystery, and sheer beauty have captivated cultures around the world, as well as plant explorers, writers, fine artists -- painters and photographers and jewelry makers - - and of course, visitors to this annual blockbuster.

We just can’t get enough of orchids.

I for one, just recently trekked up to the Ecuadorian Cloud Forest (from where I was working at Hacienda Cusin in San Pablo, near Otavalo) where there are more orchids than anywhere due to the country’s biological diversity. This Andean paradise boasts more than 30,000 wild orchids so far identified -- almost 25% percent of Ecuador’s flora. I’ll provide a complete cloud forest and orchid discovery posting about that soon.

Closer to home, the annual Orchid Show at NYBG has gained a much-deserved reputation for strutting the orchid’s glamorous good looks as well as teaching us about the orchid plant’s diversity and cultural significance to a number of countries, including last year’s inspiring Thailand-themed exhibit or previously, the dazzling and “uplifting” chandelier installations that compelled you to look up in 2015 or the take-your-breath away beauty of the 2013 show .

This year, it was quite evident how much professional respect and love and mutual admiration there is between the NYBG Horticultural staff and the revered Daniel Ost and his team.

Todd Forrest, Arthur Ross Vice President for Horticulture and Living Collections & Daniel Ost at press preview

Scores of the press in attendance were swooning over Ost and past features they’ve been honored to write.

I saw that my botanical artist friend, Ellen Hovercamp (I own three of her fabulous pieces, featured in our bedroom; Ellen collaborates with horticultural expert, designer, and author, Ken Druse, most notably in the book, Natural Companions ) had retrieved Ost’s book Floral Art and The Beauty of Impermanence - a stunning compilation of the artist’s unparalleled floral designs.
Botanical Artist Ellen Hovercamp with her Daniel Ost book ready for autograph 

No less CBS has described him as "the world's leading flower designer," while the New York Times says that "to call him a master flower designer is akin to calling Annie Leibovitz a shutterbug.”

NYBG notes “Ost is celebrated worldwide for his eye-catching installations in private and public spaces, working with both living and cut flowers.

His large-scale artwork has drawn comparison to that of renowned sculptors Anish Kapoor, Claes Oldenburg, and Andy Goldsworthy. In Belgium he has been called “the Picasso of flower arranging,” and in France he was touted as “the international star of floral decoration.” Daniel Ost lives and works in Sint-Niklaas, Belgium, where he was born and raised.

Mr. Ost’s recent YouTube interview for the Garden helps explain his approach to the installation. Many orchids are epiphytes -- meaning they grow on the surface of another plant or tree, getting their nutrients from the air, rain, and water. And Ost says he was very much drawn to the orchid’s ability to grow like this.

He also explains why he chose the clear, plastic tubes that the orchid blossoms are attached to “like vines,” he says - throughout the three key installations in the show.

There is a huge funnel-like structure in the Palms of the World Gallery, right near the entrance to the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory where the Orchid event is located at NYBG.

Rather than seeing a breathtaking display reflected in the moody black water of the pool here - the towering design in the Conservatory’s Palms of the World Gallery, is an 18-foot-tall sculpture by Ost that is meant to complement the height of the 90-foot-tall dome overhead.

“In the Seasonal Exhibition Galleries, his designs speak to the architecture of the glasshouse.”

There are two more site specific living art installations: a bamboo dome that holds an array of color-coordinated fiery yellows, oranges and red orchids.

The other is a hanging bamboo structure that runs the length of the central axis and is filled with Kodedama -- hanging orchids planted in moss.

I do love these and have been successfully growing one made by floral designer and landscape architect, EunYoung Sebazco and graduate of the Gardens School of Professional Horticulture, that I got at the “Nature in Art” show I curated not too long ago.

Within this area there are also kaleidoscopes of drop-dead gorgeous orchids and companion plants. These “orchid companions” include croton, dracaena, and more.

I especially liked the unique kalanchoe - Kalanchoe, Vrisea, Phormium on display that picked up the soft, subtle greens and flamingo pinks of the orchids.

We were told that Ost spotted these within the Garden’s Collection and insisted he wanted to have them in the installation. What a great eye for harmony the master has ...

I do recommend you go to see and experience the Orchid Show - and moreover, all the special collateral, orchid-themed events the Garden has lined up.

This show underscores the fact that art is provocative - it moves us and touches each of us in unique and profound ways. For me, I didn’t care for the clear tubes woven in and about the orchids like so many skeins of yarn. It looked like life support tubes in a medical environment and detracted from the simple elegance and sheer beauty of the orchid plants. I know. I know. I get the narrative and the artful back story. I have more than respect for Ost and his informed and impressive floral art installation. I write this with hesitation. I don’t want to be arbitrary or a spoiler. But I must be honest. It’s just that I prefer to see the orchids. In a more pristine or pretty design.  This appears “messy” to me.
I had a challenge getting past the plastic tubes...

When I got on the subway this morning I saw an image that was reminiscent of the installation's tubes ...

Don’t hate me because I see the link with the Ost orchid tubes …

In years’ past, the orchids help tell the story of a culture or environmental diversity but at the same time were set in a tableau or “living picture” that was more sensual and inviting. And well, to be frank and honest, it was more glamorous and elegant.

Though, I do like the artist’s dreamy rendering: (there was just a lot more tubing in the final look).

Floral Artist Daniel Ost A Daniel Ost conceptual rendering for The Orchid Show

I’m sure that evenings in the show will be spectacular and help to showcase the blooms.

During “Orchid Evenings throughout the run of the exhibition, visitors experience music, tours, and special performances, with cash bars offering for purchase beer, wine, and cocktails, including the Dancing Lady, especially created for Orchid Evenings by Edible Bronx’s head mixologist.” The Garden notes “You can warm up around fire pits on Conservatory Plaza, then head into the glasshouse to explore the exhibition. Live performers add extra flair to the stunning displays of orchids, while curated music by a live DJ creates the perfect atmosphere to explore The Orchid Show. Alice Farkey’s whimsical Orchid Ladies roam the Conservatory.

Orchid Evenings are from 6:30– 9:30 p.m. on March 17, 24, and 31, April 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, and 21, and are for adults 21 and over.

Back to the floral art displays. We were told the clear tubes capture the sunlight and reflect… But I thought it was a bit of the Emperor’s New Clothes… There was the inarguable fact that there is a lot of plastic tubing to look at. I don’t like plastic. I was doomed.

The Ost-designed installations were also disappointing to me because while there were three, they are similar in style using clear tubing and bamboo as structural elements with the orchids featured on that. No reveal or aha or heart-clutching mystery…

While there are more orchids on display this year I was told, it didn’t create that impact or visual...

Let me know what you think after you experience the show.

The overwhelming element is: the orchids are sublime. 
Go for the plants!

This year, NYBG’s 16th Annual Orchid Show Runs from March 3 through April 22, 2018

News on the show from the NYBG team: “The 2018 edition of The Orchid Show at The New York Botanical Garden, exhibiting commissioned works by Daniel Ost, opens on March 3 and runs through April 22, 2018. Entering its16th year, the popular exhibition, showcasing thousands of dramatically displayed orchids in the Botanical Garden’s historic Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

One of the world’s leading floral designers, Ost uses flowers as a means of expression. He identifies himself as a bloembinder, the Dutch term for an artist who works with flowers. His large-scale artworks have been tailored to the unique environment of the landmark Victorian- style Haupt Conservatory, complementing the architecture of the building while creating a transformative, dazzling spectacle of color, form, and texture. Bamboo arranged in grids and calling to mind the glass grids of the Conservatory, and clear tubing meant to both evoke water and connect to the Conservatory’s glass, are among the materials employed in his artful installations to which individual orchids are attached so that each flower and form can be seen and appreciated. The works pay homage to his training in ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging. In ikebana, artists value the ideas of wabi-sabi, a philosophy that finds beauty in imperfection, asymmetry, and impermanence.

Ost trained in Belgium and the Netherlands before visiting Japan for the first time in 1983 where he befriended Noboru Kurisaki, one of the most prominent grand masters of ikebana, who became his mentor and teacher. He taught Ost that a single flower used the right way can be more impactful than thousands of flowers used en masse. This concept is particularly evident in one of Ost’s designs on view in The Orchid Show.

The Hudson Garden Grill is open for meals and light bits before Orchid Evening festivities.

Dining options include Hudson Garden Grill, NYBG’s full-service restaurant, and at the Pine Tree Café.

Orchid Show visitors may select from thousands of top-quality orchids, from exotic, hard-to- find specimens for connoisseurs to elegant yet easy-to-grow varieties for beginners, available for purchase at NYBG Shop, along with orchid products and books. Along with plenty of other, plant-inspired objets d’art, tablescape accessories, fashion, fragrance, and hostess gifts.

Orchids are eternally fascinating and have so much to teach us. Adult Education at NYBG gas thoughtfully produced and curated a number of classes you’ll enjoy participating in. See the lineup here:

Myths abound about how hard it is to care for this ever-popular orchid. Jim Freeman dispels those myths with plenty of sensible advice on how to treat your phalaenopsis so that it blooms year after year. Light, water, nutrients, repotting, and root care are all key. Walk away feeling confident and equipped with the knowledge to make your orchids thrive.

Saturday, March 17; 11 a.m.–2 p.m., NYBG Instructor: Jim Freeman


Frank Guida, beloved Botanical Art teacher and orchid aficionado, shows you what he’s learned from years of helping out in NYBG’s Nolen Greenhouses, demonstrating when and how to divide and repot your orchids without trauma (to you or the plants!). Learn about different types of containers and potting media and making your own bark mix.

Saturday, March 24; 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m., NYBG Instructor: Frank Guida

ORCHID MOUNTING (image from orchids made easy)

Show off the exquisite beauty of an orchid by mounting it on cork. Not only is this a showstopping piece of living décor, it is also healthy for the plant, mimicking the way epiphytic orchids grow in nature. Frank Guida, botanical artist and orchid aficionado, will discuss which species thrive on mounts and how to care for your newly mounted orchid.

aturday, March 24; 2–4:30 p.m., NYBG Instructor: Frank Guida

Get an exclusive opportunity to photograph The Orchid Show using your DSLR 100- 300mm telephoto lens, and dedicated speedlights. Master techniques to achieve

the best lighting and exposure for these vibrant flowers without the use of tripods or monopods. Afterward, return to the classroom for a review and critique of your images.

Required Equipment: DSLR, zoom telephoto lens (100-300mm focal length), other lenses if you desire, lens hood, dedicated speedlight, brackets, hotshoe cable or remote, and lunch.

Tuesday, April 3; 9 a.m.–3 p.m., NYBG Instructor: Jeffrey Falk


Create a mini rainforest with air plants and orchids in an open-style terrarium. Maria Colletti, author of Terrariums, will guide you as you design your own, and provide instruction on the care and maintenance of your miniature plant world.

Wednesday, April 4; 6:30–8:30 p.m., NYBG Monday, May 21; 6:30–8:30 p.m., Midtown Center Instructor: Maria Colletti

Get pro tips on how to care for orchids in less than optimal environments. Barbara Schmidt, award-winning exhibitor at the Philadelphia Flower Show and author of Orchid Care: For the Beginner, will walk you through which orchid genus will fare best in your indoor environment, as well as how to ensure your orchids have what they need to grow and bloom. Optional: Bring Your Own Orchid so Barbara can help you identify and/or troubleshoot its problems.

Saturday, April 14; 11 a.m.–1 p.m., NYBG Instructor: Barbara Schmidt

Register for classes at

For more information about The Orchid Show and to purchase tickets, please visit the Garden’s Web site,

Some last minute prep by the Hort staff proved to almost be the best part of the orchid show. 
Thank you.