Saturday, February 26, 2011

Stephen Orr's First Book: "Tomorrow's Garden" Book Launch in New York City

“Tomorrow’s Garden” Book Launch in New York City
February 17, 2011

I can’t think of another, more anticipated garden book than Stephen Orr’s first tome, “Tomorrow’s Garden.”  

Hailed as a design and inspiration for a new age of sustainable gardening, the book is a spot-on, sensual, inspirational tour of what Stephen’s visionary eye sees as “…the gardens of the future.” 

He describes his idea of pleasure gardens as an aesthetic that cannot deny the urbanization of our world and the “green movement.”

The book joyfully and respectfully illuminates amateur gardeners and their work.
That alone is a refreshing nod to his at-the-gate-position in the e-volution of home gardens. How Stephen is that?! 

He says, “These gardens not only concern themselves with reaching their own best level of sustainability in water usage, plant choices, local ecology, and preservation of resources, but they are also aesthetically delightful.” 

I’ll say. And then some…

First scheduled to premiere in the fall of 2010, garden enthusiasts packed the Wave Hill-sponsored lecture in the spring of last year to hear Stephen tell the story of the making of his first book.  
His funny, self-effacing, and very intimate, personal introduction to the motivation and making of book was equal parts garden tour, horticultural tutorial, how-to guide and pure magic.
Not unlike the man himself. 

If you don’t already know Stephen, you must get the book.  Trust me. 
If you know Stephen, you will be like me, buying multiple copies for family and friends.

Whether new garden friend or me-gusto admirer, when reading the book you will have the sense of taking garden tours with your dearest friend; talking garden design and sharing homegrown tips over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, while discussing that day’s garden exploration. 

He is the kind of gardening guru you want to spend time with.  

You find yourself smiling or nodding your head as he describes a garden narrative.  
He can be provocative, but he won’t go all fancy pants on you.  

The book is rather a pure, unadulterated ode to the emerging garden of tomorrow (that is today!) as a cultivated space that is beauty, utility, and creativity that also respects a sustainable, local aesthetic. 
Don’t be surprised when every other garden lecturer references “Tomorrow’s Garden” and Stephen’s seemingly prescient garden spaces. 
He is a pioneer.  
A reluctant one I imagine but nevertheless...
Stephen has energetically and thoughtfully curated a collection of exciting, cutting-edge gardens for us to explore.

We shouldn’t all want an English country garden.  Or an Italian or Chinese garden --any more than our meal preparation should mimic some overzealous desire to import an ill-conceived attempt at recreating something that doesn’t celebrate the very essence of what makes each and every place unique and special…
His book seeks out gardens that teach us how to be sustainable and glamorous… 
Stephen captures this feeling and wraps it up in a garden opus that you won’t put down.
Likewise, you will use the book as a working reference: there are plant lists, hardscaping ideas and soil amendment tips.

I’ll review the book in more detail later.  I couldn’t help showcase a bit here to give a context for the book launch. 
Stephen is garden friend from um, I can’t remember J  I do know I was thrilled when he not only attended botanic garden events at the two amazing NYC Gardens when I worked there but also agreed to be a judge for the community gardening program when I was the director of communications.
It was a loooong day, visiting neighborhood gardens, judging streetscapes and container gardens and he was as enthusiastic and eager and encouraging to the citizens at 4 pm as he was at 10 am. 
He loves this garden stuff and it shows!
In Chapter 12's Gardening the Street, you can see some of the judging day's green-garden streetscape images and learn about the urban gardeners' successes and challenges.

From that time to now, Stephen has delightfully and deservedly explored the world of gardens on every level.  Recently he was named the Gardening Editorial Director at Martha Stewart Living magazine.

The March issue – with the in-your-face, Crayola-colored basket of vegetables cover shot, features a review of his book.  
At the same time, this issue marks Stephen and his team’s first garden guide editorial. The premiere garden feature is not unlike the book’s classy, practical no-nonsense, inspirational style. 

It is a gob-smacked wonder.

You find yourself devouring the exciting segment and yet breathlessly asking, ”Why haven’t garden stories been like this before?”
He and Andrea Mason, Gardening Editor, The Martha Stewart Show (TV), who I worked with on more than a few gardening segments, along with Shaun Kass, Martha’s head gardener, Bedford are the garden experts who have contributed to the pulse-quickening “Vegetable Garden Primer.” 

Tomorrow's Garden Book Party

It was a perfect evening for the book event. Nice, clear weather.  For a change. No snow. There were a lot of parties on the block, so there was an overall festive appeal and spark on the street.

Tomorrow’s Garden party was an overfilled, living room-styled party whose happy guests hailed from the worlds of horticulture, publishing, design, edible landscaping and garden design, TV and photography. 
All have touched Stephen in a supportive, dynamic way in all the star-filled points of his life.  
Take that Facebook! 

Martha attended the book launch event.  What a boss…
As did Andrea:

And Melissa Ozawa, a former colleague of Stephen’s at House & Garden, a noted manuscript reader who Stephen acknowledges in the book was a co-host of the event. 
I have to add that I have also worked with Melissa and she is a delight: an unassuming talent with a marked aesthetic. I admire her. 
Melissa wore happy Dorothy-like, Wizard of Oz shoes on the night of the book launch J
How transporting!

Here is Stephen and Melissa – what a dynamic duo.  

The books were for sale, ready for Stephen to autograph.  

No signing table; and I thought that was nice.  He was mingling with the swelling guest crowd.  

The party food hit just the right note.  

As I was tasting a treat or two, I was surprised to see my garden friend Tom Christopher at the food table. He joked he does take the hay seeds out sometimes to visit the big city.  
Tom  has just released his latest book, “The Artful Garden: Creative Inspiration for Landscape Design” co-authored with James van Sweden. I told him I Tweeted (@gardenglamour) news of his book after reading in Architectural Digest.

I also chatted it up with New York Botanic Garden's Marc Hachadourian, Manager of the Nolan Greenhouses for Living Collections who runs the much-idolized Orchid Collection.  He was deservedly a bit breathless, as he was busy preparing for the annual Orchid Show at NYBG, scheduled for March 5-April 25

I did ask an admiring guest to take a picture of Stephen and me. But sadly, she was no Annie Leibovitz.  In fact, there is no image at all of the two of us. L  sigh…

But look what Stephen wrote in my book! 

It’s so nice to have garden friends like you.”

How sweet.  Right back ‘atcha. 

Gardens are about beauty and sharing.  And every great garden tells a story. Stephen has curated the most fascinating and gorgeous garden stories to share...
"Tomorrow's Gardens" illuminates and celebrates the designed garden's sensual and spiritual elements in an exciting and refreshing way.

Cheers, darling.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Romantic Gardens: Nature, Art and Landscape Design

The Horticultural Society of New York

Elizabeth Barlow Rogers
Romantic Gardens * Nature, Art, and Landscape Design

George Pisegna, Director of Horticulture at The Horticultural Society of New York introduced the featured speaker, Betsy Rogers Rogers. George said she was a leader early on in the public/private partnerships that took root in New York City in the last 20 years to much success, most notably in Central Park.    
Rogers is also the founder, president and instructor of the Foundation for Landscape Studies.  Not that long ago, the Foundation offered a graduate program in Landscape studies.  It remains an amazing resource for historic and contemporary landscapes and has an almost unsurpassed digital library through its affiliation with ARTstor.

After her talk, the two of us spoke about the closure of the school and lamented the loss of opportunity and exploration and discovery embodied in the curriculum.  I had long intended to attend the school.  I was happily envious of Nancy Seaton, horticulturist extraordinaire, who I know from working at botanical gardens, as she went through the program, graduating successfully before the school was shuttered

Betsy opened the lecture with the notion of romanticism and said we’d focus on some elements of the book that was the basis for last year’s Morgan Library exhibit that she co-curated.   The book is a piece of art unto itself and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in gardens, history, the arts and well, just beautiful things.

Rogers proceeded to demonstrate how landscape architecture gets played out internationally. “The Romantic concept occurred simultaneously in different western countries.”

She explained that we would look at literature, art – and I might add, politics – besides parks and gardens to understand the differences in the concept of mise en place – or a sense of place. 
The culinary world refers to mis en place as a cooking term meaning “everything in place” such as the ingredients and utensils: having everything ready to cook. 
However as it started in landscape design, it was meant to suggest the landscape design is natural to that particular place. So no palm trees in the Long Island landscape or native prairie grasses in the Netherlands. (hint, hint, Piet Ouldolf J

“Here we will talk about designed landscapes that are intended to mimic natural landscapes – in the English countryside for example.  New York’s Central Park is another example of 19th Century scenery.
“The use of boulders in the Park recreates what people thought of as natural,” she added.

She illuminated the design concepts as seen through the prism of national heritage and culture.
She took us through the examples of romantic landscape designers in England, France and Germany before detailing the new world of North America, which is New York City.  (It was all a very euro-centric perspective)

Romanticism in England
She told us important elements of landscape design are: mise en place as well as the Genius of Place, first identified by the Englishman Alexander Pope, who wrote about the “spirit of the place” that must be “consulted” before making a design, in his poetic epistle counseling gardeners.
His advice left an enduring and important impact on gardeners and landscape designers and one that is a defining principle of garden and landscape design.
Pope admonished gardeners to design with nature as a partner.

This ushered in an era that effectively put an end to the prissy, French, Le Notre Versailles-style gardens.
Think of a lazing English country house where it was all the better to see nature as an artistic muse. The scenery of a Romantic landscape was inspirational especially for the free spirits who could indulge in creating such landscapes. 

Ruins played a particularly important role – their imagery was a prevailing feature in Romantic Gardens, Rogers noted.

She talked about the landscape architect Humphry Repton, a much revered 18th Century British landscape designer in the style of Capability Brown which was the natural, mise en place style.
Repton also coined the term “landscape gardener” to describe his work. 
Repton was the first to present his garden designs with watercolors, drawings, and text to show the “before” and “after” looks.  His work was eventually produced into bound Red Books, so named for their binding. 
Rogers said he showed for the first time how property could be developed and designed. 

Repton was born in Bury St. Edmunds, a garden-scape of a village that I have some historical connection to.  In 2004 I donated some of my lightweight flower pots I design and have made: The Garden Pendant Collection.  It seems the town, Bury in Bloom, was to have been eliminated from the national Anglia in Bloom contest because their pots were deemed too heavy and dangerous. You can only imagine the hand wringing that this caused! The Brits are just mad for their gardens and flowers…
I read of this situation and offered to donate some of my Garden Pendants.  I ended up doing some newspaper interviews and a BBC radio interview. Subsequently, I was invited to Bury St. Edmunds for the awards ceremony and spoke to the townspeople and garden aficionados.  It was an energizing experience to a delightful part of the world.  I made some great garden friends too.

Rogers next spoke about William Wadsworth the American poet and his influence on Romantic gardens.  Wadsworth believed in and advocated for a personal and experiential experience with gardens.
This was a Spiritual vs. an Aesthetic approach to gardens. 
Rogers read some of Wadsworth’s poetry to highlight his sublime effort to try and capture the beauty of nature – the sense of the garden as a soul and moral being.

This is all so dreamy – and heady stuff. 

She showed one landscape design that I couldn't help but think was the inspiration or blueprint for the Princess Diana memorial - an island in a very naturalistic setting.... striking similar, no?  hmmm. 

Romanticism in France
We moved on to the introduction of Romantic gardens in France.
One might argue that is redundant J 

Romantic French landscape design, Rogers told us, came from philosophy. Jean-Jacques Rousseau who as a “leader in the French revolution and the Romantic period. He believed man was “essentially good and equal in the state of nature.” His most celebrated theory was the “natural man.”
He too promoted experiencing nature through the senses but with a reverence. It is part of his philosophy to see reform as complete immersion in nature.  A garden experience would immunize children against vices of words. 
This could sound far-fetched and fancy, but if you think about it, exposing children to gardens early has proven to prevent a phenomenon we refer to as “Plant Blindness” where people are unaware of the plants in their surroundings.
Children also will eat more vegetables if they can grow and harvest them.  Not to mention the quality of air they breath and the calming effect of green plants in one’s surroundings.  All scientifically proven.  So Rousseau was on the mark.

Rogers treated us to Maria Antoinette’s take on gardens.  “Just think about this young girl, forced to move to France and marry an older man.”  (Umm, that would be the King, Louis XVI…) 
“It was through her garden that she could create a new place – a ‘paradise’ as a way to overcome bad.”  The Queen could carry on a torrid affair in the otherworldly garden.  (I knew the French-ness would kick in eventually!)  And not to disappoint, here Rogers reads from some letters where her lover says he “can grow passion.  Eden is easy because nature is his partner.”  What a guy…

Parks that were being designed then were, for the first time, not just for the monarchy.  The Romantics infused the landscape design with a moral, spiritual quality.

Romanticism in Germany
Rogers then moved the talk to Germany. She showed the purity of a glowing peasant life, saying they revered those who worked close to the land. 
The Germans were characteristically introspective and all encompassing about nature.  Think, the Fatherland… The Homeland… and both are synonymous with nature.
They believed their countryside set them apart – “There is a soul and a spirit that elevates them from France and England. There is a sense of the Divine for them,” she says not altogether persuasively.
There is the underlying presence of the Nordic myth: primordial woods.
“We don’t have time to go into music here, but we can’t not mention Bach,” Rogers notes by way of explaining this Germanic feeling for the land.  Their philosopher Goethe  often called genius was a Romantic who was also a naturalist, a botanist and a scientist.

Rogers showed paintings of German landscape design of parks and castles that were located near industrial plants. They were proud of the science and technology and wanted industry to be showcased in the background. It wasn’t a negative thing but rather industry and its smokestacks evoked a sense of pride.  The paintings of the time – and quite a few from the show at the Morgan Library, depicted the duality of scenic landscape views.

Romanticism in America
Concluding with America, Rogers reminded us that the United States was founded on the principles of democracy and liberty – a belief in the principles of the Romantics.
There was a new attitude toward the individual.

Jeffersonian Enlightenment ascribes to this “God’s mastery.”  The view of Monticello alone is pure Romanticism.

The art and writing of the time underscores this sense of American transcendence: the spirit of Jefferson and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s works, as were AJ Downing and the Hudson River School of painting, whose aesthetic was influenced by the Romanticism that reflected the American themes of “discovery, exploration and settlement.”  The search for arcadia in our cities and in the exploration of the continent…
When I view these works, I most often think of God and the sense of Manifest Destiny.

She said some of the first public landscape areas in the New World of the Romantic period were the cemeteries.  As America’s population grew rapidly, there was no longer room to bury its citizens in town next to the church, so cemeteries were built in the more rural areas that would soon be suburbia.  She cited the beauty of Green-Wood cemetery, Shady Grove and showed images of the Queens Cemetery. 
This was the second time in the same amount of months that the speaker cited the beauty of America’s cemeteries. (See earlier post from NYBG with Double Feature -- 
I think we’re on to something here.

Rogers segued to the making of Central Park   and Prospect Park with Calvert Veaux and Frederick Law Olmstead and their Greensward Plan.

The two were influenced by Romanticism and its expression of hearkening back: expressions of literature, music, fine art and the value placed on the senses, as is the nurturing spirit of the place.    The ruins of Belvedere castle are iconic. 
“The hope was that both Central Park and Prospect Park – (Olmstead and Veaux always referred to Prospect Park as their masterpiece), would help achieve peace, socialization, personal restoration, joy and rapture as nature and the two landscape designers – intended. Further, they believed the parks should provide spiritual nourishment.” She said.

Rogers concluded the talk with a Q&A, coming right into the audience to answer the questions.  
When asked about Chinese gardens, she did point out that they are in the book, but we just didn’t have time for all of it this day, she remarked. 

It was a fascinating talk – a class really.  And it made me wish the school was still up and running for all to learn from.  Here’s hoping they bring it back.

In the meantime, be sure to get Rogers’s book.  It’s a wonderful read and superlative resource.  I got Betsy to autograph my book.

 You can get yours here: 

And you can learn more about her work at:


Friday, February 4, 2011

Snow to Seeds

Maybe I’m the ever-happy garden sprite, but when everyone else seems to be complaining and kvetching about the winter and its snowstorms (hello: it’s the season) I view it all as almost a perfect mash up. 

The winter weather forces us gardeners inside where we more or less do our winter gardening.
What’s that?  Attending lectures about gardens; reading about gardens; dreaming and drawing up new garden designs; taking care of the garden tools: cleaning, sharpening, oiling, all in preparation for the spring.

And as any dedicated, hard driving gardener will tell you – or perhaps sheepishly admit, nothing short of a blizzard will keep us out of the garden. 
So look at it like this:  we NEED the snowstorms and winter crazies to force us to sit down and take the time to choose the seeds, fruit tree varieties that will fulfill the next season’s garden desires.

So relax, enjoy the winter seasonal respite to flip through the print catalogs or the online ones – complete with colorful thumbnail images of the plants we dream will be part of our gardens.
It’s not unlike online dating.
Perhaps seduced by the too handsome or pretty image, we find our love.  Once there, we peruse the bio or stats and only then feel the chemistry. “This one’s for me!” the bubble in your head can be heard to exclaim.  Or maybe you shout out loud.

Better than Vogue’s fall issue, we love the cover shots of the boutique offerings from the smaller breeders and organic artisans.

For part of my Christmas wish list, I couldn’t resist the cherry trees from One Green World  - 1-877-353-4028 /
I am designing a home orchard: a double row cherry allee of compact trees near the kitchen garden or potager, located on the “back forty” as we say. That would be the backyard garden…
Last season, it was sad and curious when I asked one of the many nurseries I work with about securing fruit trees for my garden design clients; I was told they haven’t stocked them in forever. What? Why?  “Because no one grows fruit anymore.”
Pardon me, but isn’t this crazy?  Why do we have to buy imported fruit?  Most of suburban America can grow edible fruits. Most of urban residents can too.
Sigh. This is just the most recent example of lost food opportunities.

Not to be deterred. I moved on.  I would appeal to a higher resource: Santa Claus.

I needed dwarf varieties that would provide sweet, delicious, edible cherries.  My husband loves cherries – we buy Red Jacket Cherry Stomp from the Greenmarket in Union Square and my mother always makes him cherry pie for family holidays.

I wanted trees that are relatively carefree, with various blooming time that would yield fruit within the first year or so.  Some trees can take several years for cherries to bear fruit, so be mindful. 
I asked Santa for the Prunus cerasus  Montmorency.  This tree promises pie cherries.  They will rarely exceed 12 feet and are hardy to Zone 3.  The catalog says it produces abundant crops of firm, bright red, richly tart fruit with clear juice (yeah!)  Montmorency makes the best cherry pies!  (can’t wait to test this out!) A self-fertile and naturally dwarf tree.

I also hoped Santa would see clear to bring a sweet cherry, Prunus avium. That fat red man doesn’t wear red for nothing!  He’ll be sending two Compact Stella.  Stella – (which means ‘star’ in Italian. I know because the name of one of my most favorite garden client’s mother is Stella!)  I am hoping my sweet Stella cherry is indeed a star of our soon-to-be cherry orchard. 
The catalog describes Stella as “unique, self-fertile, dwarf cherry that will grow to only about 8-10 feet ad begins bearing fruit within a year or two and bears large, tasty, almost black fruit.” Good to zone 5

My mother remembers she and her sisters were picking their cherry fruit form the trees for what seemed forever – but that did not deter us from
We will add more trees to the mini orchard, but not before test-driving this year’s babies.
Santa was great.  He did it.


We order seeds from the Kitazawa Seed Co.,
 (LOVE, love, love their seed packet design!); 
Maine Potato Lady;
John Scheepers, kitchen garden:
Seed Savers Exchange:
and Comstock native Seeds (and what about those cover-boy melons?) 

Just recently, I received the Renee’s Garden spring seed offerings and am very to say they have some very exciting new Gourmet Vegetables and Flowers.  I am very excited to try their new introductions, including, Sugar Pearl White Corm, Zinger Hibiscus herbal tea, ‘Beauty Heart” Heirloom Radish Watermelon, Wine Country Mesclun and Tricolor carrots.   I’ll keep you posted on the growing of the Renee’s Garden seed growing.

Today, Garden Design Magazine featured their secret and heirloom seed picks from England, Italy and Vermont.               

Take the time to indulge the season’s “snow to seed” research and selection.