Thursday, May 31, 2012

Earthly Delights Garden Event: June 1-3 Keeps Garden in Garden State

Earthly Delights launches this Friday, June 1, with a cocktail party, followed by two days of garden lectures and botanical and horticultural hobnobbing.
Yet it already seems like a tradition – an event that has long celebrated the Garden State. Earthly Delights is taking place at the home of Andrea Filippone. I wrote about her and her amazing boxwoods and her home garden in a recent post here at Garden Glamour

Rare and Unusual Plants; Exceptional Garden Antiques; Distinctive Art; Fine Tools and Accessories
- Plant Silent Auction
- Distinguished Lecture Series
A horticultural event inviting visitors from all over the tri-state area to shop from distinguished vendors for rare plants, distinctive garden antiques, as well as attend lectures and demonstrations from nationally known speakers. The focus is on education and the many ways to increase awareness of gardening and public gardens in New Jersey.
Preview Cocktail Party Friday, June 1, 6pm-8pm.
General Admission, June 2, 9am-4pm & June 3, 9am-2pm.
Rain or Shine
LECTURE SERIES - Click here for details on Lectures
Dick Lighty - Caring for the Garden: Is it a Delight … or a Chore?, June 2, 11-12pm 
Anne Raver - Milestones in the Organic Garden, June 2, 1-2pm 
Rick Darke - Emerging Ecologies: Gardening Sync'd to the Nature of Our Time, June 2, 2:30-3:30pm
Pete Johnson - Pete's Greens, Vermont's Four Season Organic Vegetable Farm, June 3, 9:30-10:30am 
Eric T Fleisher & Paul Wagner -Creating a Healthier Landscape Through Organic Practice, June 3, 11-12:30
Event Catering by Ross & Owren
The home and garden of Andrea Filippone
129 Pickle Road, Pottersville, NJ 07979
*If using GPS enter the town as Califon, NJ
New Jersey's incomparable horticultural institutions are places where people can experience nature and appreciate our rich historical and always growing works of landscape art - and they all need our help. The event's second annual beneficiary is New Jersey's Keep it Green Campaign. Their mission is to secure a long-term stable source of funding for the acquisition of open space, farmland and historic sites as well as the capital improvement, operation, maintenance, and stewardship of state and local natural areas, parks and historic sites in New Jersey. This work is guided by the belief that every New Jersey resident deserves well-maintained, accessible neighborhood parks, wildlife areas and historic sites. Please check out their website:
Friends of Earthly Delights - an all-volunteer group of local designers, architects, horticulturists, garden writers, and gardeners have formed an alliance with the Land Conservancy of New Jersey to help benefit New Jersey public parks and gardens.
For information on becoming a sponsor or making a tax deductible donation 
please contact Anita Shearan -
Purchase Tickets through Brown Paper Ticket

We travel in glamorous circles!
There are so many of my most favorite vendors who will be showcasing their wares from Munder -Skiles (see previous story)
to Atlock Toadshade Wildflower Farm --got our native plants for my client’s honeybees from Toadshade and custom planters –
from Pennoyer-Newman, and my Gotham apartment glamorous shower curtain from Dransfield & Ross, to name a few of my
recommended, favorite garden artists who will be at Earthly Delights:
And do not miss the extraordinary agenda of lectures –especially my favorite garden writer and plantswoman, Anne Raver.
2012 Lectures
Saturday, June 2
Dick Lighty - Caring for the Garden: Is it a Delight … or a Chore?
On a virtual tour of two very different gardens we've made, and through a typical year of garden tasks, Dick will show the amount of time and effort it takes to maintain garden areas of varying levels of intensity - and reward, leaving it to the listener to decide what they might prefer in terms of work and enjoyment. The conclusions are supported by handouts showing the actual data on time required per unit area for each level of gardening. Another handout describes the techniques used to maintain each area throughout the gardening season.
Anne Raver - Milestones in the Organic Garden Anne Raver, a frequent contributor to the New York Times and Landscape Architecture Magazine, will offer an anecdotal timeline for the organic movement in this country. Anne has been an organic gardener since the early 1970s and has interviewed hundreds of gardeners and farmers, as well as CEO's of chemical companies, in over 30 years of writing about the environment.
Rick Darke - Emerging Ecologies: Gardening Sync'd to the Nature of Our Time
Ecological change is the signature of our age, and it is accompanied by unprecedented opportunities to embrace the new 'Nature' in our gardens and community landscapes. Rick Darke will use a wide array of public and private places to point out the creative possibilities of a time in which the only constant is the accelerating pace of change.
Sunday, June 3
Pete Johnson - Pete's Greens, Vermont's Four Season Organic Vegetable Farm
Learn how Pete's Greens grows and sells a wide array of organic produce year-round in Northern Vermont's challenging zone 3 climate. This workshop will cover a basic overview of Pete's 3 acres of greenhouse and 65 acres of outdoor production, season extension, root cellaring, freezing and other preserving of farm produce, field operations, and how Pete's Greens fits into the agricultural renaissance that is rapidly expanding in the Hardwick, VT region. In addition Pete will discuss farm profitability, how to achieve it and why economic success is an important component to rebuilding our local food system.
Eric T Fleisher & Paul Wagner - Creating a Healthier Landscape Through Organic Practice
This symposium will focus on teaching the methods to manage successful organic landscapes; including soil management, pest and disease control, irrigation, pruning, plant selection, and specialized compost design and practice. Eric T Fleisher and Paul Wagner are two of the most influential advocates for organic landscape practices. This approach focuses on encouraging the natural nutrient cycling systems thereby eliminating the use of inorganic fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides. This eliminates the toxins that have traditionally been used in landscape maintenance, and results in a healthier more vibrant landscape.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Meet John Danzer, Exterior Decorator, Garden Furniture Designer & Visionary

It’s Design Week in Gotham and I can’t think of a better peg to feature a profile about John Danzer, one of the garden design world’s most talented, respected artisan, connoisseur, curator, and the enduring “Exterior Decorator.”

John Danzer, Exterior Decorator

Equal parts visionary, mirthful cosmopolitan, garden historian and lecturer -- you Do want to enjoy cocktails with this unique personality.
If he didn’t exist – you’d be tempted to make him come alive -- from a Preston Sturges movie or a Cary Grant classic iconic image.

His marquee good looks and charm are the threads that weave a tapestry that is meticulously composed of hard work, research, and unbridled passion.
Danzer exudes an unaffected humility matched with a fierce pride and point of view. 
One is hard-pressed to not feel at ease with Danzer, because he makes it so.

I attend a plethora of garden and interior design lectures, talks, trade shows, and events and it’s a rare one that I don’t happily bump into Danzer. 

This man is tireless. 

He is now at the sweet spot of quality, garden design and the decorative arts. 
I dare you to come up with another name or brand that can do what Danzer and his Munder-Skiles do. 

How this garden guru came to embody the genus loci or “spirit of the place” is so much a part of Danzer’s mystique and bespoke outdoor garden room designs, that it propelled his journey to his (trademarked) “exterior decorator” moniker with panache and an unparalleled contribution to the expression of what is meant by good garden design.  

He takes the design that is there, courtesy of nature and the landscape architect or designer, and then works to “select and place furniture and objects within an interpretive context,” as noted on Munder-Skiles website.

Prior to a recent Wave Hill talk with landscape architect Thomas L. Woltz, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects whose wowsy landscapes featured more than a few of Danzer’s designs, I met with Danzer to interview him about his contribution to garden art. 
It seemed especially timely to me to grab him, given that Danzer and his partner – newly married too – will be spending so much of the season at their new country house: in Spain!

The Business
Danzer and his Munder-Skiles is, at first blush, quite complicated to describe.  (The name of his company is derived from a combination of his Midwest, European grandparent’s family names.)
He was a major “brand” with an aggressive portfolio of services before the likes of Martha Stewart or Calvin Klein came round to the world of home design.

For more than 20 years, Danzer’s Munder-Skiles has successfully blossomed to provide a portfolio of products and services with garden art beating passionately at its heart.
This is the key or hub that hugs all the work of his enterprise.

Danzer essentially operates three-plus companies:
·      Munder-Skiles: Design and production of hand-crafted garden furniture and accessories;
·      The Exterior Decorator: Design services, specifying, and counsel
·      The World of Exteriors: Media company providing world of exterior designs, exhibitions, newsletters, lectures/speaking

For decades, Danzer’s design influence emanated from his showroom and office in midtown Manhattan, and now, from his upstate showplace in Garrison, New York, just north of Manhattan in the venerable Hudson Valley.

When I asked how often he designs or changes his garden product designs, he said pretty much all the time. Siempre.
It’s his company and he doesn’t need to follow the design world’s seasonal or cyclical schedules.
If Danzer is inspired—he’s doing it.
He is a self-taught artisan, designer and collector.
From the start, he says he was seduced by the value-added philosophy of one of his heroes, Leo Lionni, a famous sculptor and children’s book author who proposed the “irresistible urge to make things” at a Cooper Hewitt talk.
Today, that design commandment has remained framed, smiling, if you will, on Danzer’s desk, inspiring and illuminating the design prince’s journey to artful greatness.

About a quarter of a century ago, Danzer was living in London: (he furnished his apartment entirely with outdoor garden furniture he bought for next to nothing and still has stored! He was volunteering at a local nursery, Peter Hones, and learning about plants too.)
After some time he quit his banking job to pursue a calling to the romantic world of gardens, kicking off his new pursuit with a worldwide tour -- the first wanderlust of many journeys that over the years, would take him to the ends of the earth.

Obsessively, he was taking pictures. 
The images would become the foundation for his museum-like catalog of photos.
His next step was a year of “Educating John,” drilling down on designs and garden art history, doing research in the United States and Europe from Palm Springs to Monticello – and taking ever more pictures.

Today, Danzer is renowned for his extensive, massive library. 
He possesses more than 10,000 images and 17,000 names in his database!
He claims he subscribes to 57 different design magazines. 
“I have no time for Tweeting or email,” he jokes. But he is serious. He luxuriates in reading. 

In a reversal of the typical career template where one is asked to lecture based on an achievement or lifetime of work, Danzer actually launched his career with a talk at the prestigious Albert & Victoria Museum in London!
Through the Looking Glass indeed!

He followed this success with a talk at the Cooper Hewitt and winning the Jack Lenor Larsen award. (And is now on the Longhouse Board)
Danzer has won many other awards, including the Roscoe Award for his Taconic Chair, and was nominated by the Cooper-Hewitt for a 2005 National Design Award in Landscape architecture.

In 2000, Danzer described how he closed a New York City avenue to create a “streetscape.” It was a retrospective of his work produced by the The New York School of Interior Design, which was extremely an extremely proud moment.
But he says moreover, it was so very satisfying to see how his upscale clients were connecting to the people who made their furniture. 
It was a galvanizing moment in the relationship. 

Early in his career, no less a design authority and celebrity than Albert Hadley called him to do some work.
“Hadley was one of my first clients,” he says with well-deserved pride. 
Danzer felt the need to come up with ideas and sourced suggested nuggets from everywhere. Thus was born Danzer’s strategy of working with all professionals on the design network.

The Strategy
A point he makes in terms of his business strategy is that he can readily recommend so-called competitors.
Danzer is guileless.
“I work for the designer and for the client,” Danzer explained.
This is a refreshing approach. 
Further, Danzer possesses such confidence that this slightly askew work style is just cricket, as he describes it.

For example, a recent job was approximately $350K yet required Danzer to coordinate products from 26 different artists and producers!

Danzer plays well in the sandbox and prefers working with the landscape architect and designer. 
“Most often they don’t have a knowledge of the furniture element,” he explains about his ability to determine the furniture that echoes the spirit of the place -- to create and compliment a nature-inspired lifestyle. 
Sometimes he will get calls from the interior decorator who asks him to just “do” the outside.

“We love the art of making furniture.”
Design requires customization and passion. 

Besides intense research, interviews with the client and garden design professional, he claims he has to know about gardens in general and about the particular garden that will soon be accessorized with his garden furnishings and signature look.
He travels to Dumbarton Oaks or the South Pacific.  “I have to know about gardens,” he emphasizes.

One of the reasons why Munder-Skiles design compositions are so enduring is because they do not just put furniture in a spot or place.
Rather, Danzer and his team research, investigate and allow the spirit of the place to imbue and infuse the design process. 
“We believe the setting defines the furniture rather than the other way around.”

Seen through the lens of Danzer-as-Exterior Decorator, he purrs “The furniture gives the space scale and domesticates it in the eye of the viewer.” 

He just made sense out of a very complicated process. 

Think about it. 

Danzer continued, “If you have a big field, and put two benches out there facing one another – you’ve just created a ‘Destination.’”


Danzer explains all this so eloquently, it is no surprise he is a much sought-after speaker and lecturer. 

“We are animals.  And when we look at a landscape -- be it controlled or uncontrolled – it makes us nervous. Therefore our eye goes right to the man-made (the furniture).”
He adds, “There is a comfort in the man-made.”


And you thought that by just plunking down that Pottery Barn ensemble it would finish off the terrace.
Ha.  It could be jarring to your garden sensibilities.
And a poke in the eye to Mother Nature…

“You can manipulate the whole message by how you arrange the furniture,” Danzer offers.  “You can say, ‘Come here and eat’ or ‘Come here and gather.’”
“You can tell different stories.”

For one client, he described how he used two benches, on grass, and built an earth mound and put a plant on top of the mound and then had a wooden table made to “sit” on top of the mound.

His design work sets the standard for garden furniture, thus it is not surprising to pick up most every shelter magazine or garden book and find Danzer’s work gracing the pages.  In fact, I just received an email from Munder-Skiles strutting three of the company’s installed works of garden art as seen in:
Veranda Magazine, Architecture Digest and one of my favorites, Elle Décor.

The Process
Danzer describes how his firm is perhaps a bit “design-heavy” because he loves the design process. 
Yet he works to balance the design with the engineering – a characteristic not often readily embraced in the world of decorative arts. 
“People don’t use that word anymore,” observes Danzer.
It is a thrill to hear him describe that, unlike other designers who bow to the holy trinity of design, design, design, Danzer, on the other hand, is compelled to employ engineering into the spirit of the piece. 
“I look at the way things are joined together: the woods, the grains, the density -- the exchange of materials – switching from aluminum to bronze.”  
Getting rapturous just describing the engineering process, he enthused, “You might have to change dimensions, give the piece strength. There’s a lot involved,” he added.

Such integrity and approach to his oeuvre is a laudable, sacred art. 
He seeks to combine luxury with technology.

As crazy as it sounds, it was at this moment that I couldn’t get the idea of one of my idols, Leonardo da Vinci, enjoying an illuminating design and engineering conversation with Danzer – with both masters contributing a lively exchange of artistic values!

Through an aesthetic prism, Danzer recognizes and applies the need for engineering in each of his designs, to artfully bring about a masterful construct.

He also promotes nature’s aesthetic. 
He loves the weathering and patina it creates, including rust.
Such attention to the sensual is rare…

Danzer knows his materials – from the cellular structure on out. 
He respects his woods and the trees they come from, like a prize-winning jockey knows every muscle of his racehorse.
In this way, Danzer is downright apoplectic when talking about how people not only don’t love our trees and what they give to us, but how most people mistreat the trees and abuse them.  “It’s really sad…” he sighs. 
“Do I think we should raise trees and harvest them? Absolutely,” he answers his own query.
“But it is criminal how people are ignorant about trees and their beauty and benefits,” he said with reluctant agitation.

The Market
While there is now a seeming onslaught of new companies hitting the US outdoor furniture market – “I could name 30 companies,” he bristles.
“I’m seeing ‘modern’ – which is really just platforms with cushions on it.”

Buyer Beware.

He also deplores the trend of buying “collections.” 
Why would anyone want to buy an entire set of room furniture as opposed to curating pieces – historical pieces that have their stories, to be sure, he notes, but that new owners can make their own stories.
Further, the pieces can be modified, structurally or with color, for example.

His Clients
People come to him for a particular look. 
And there’s always a reference to history in his design and work. “It’s my signature.”

Danzer is recreating old in new ways.

“I think Garden Rooms should be different rooms. They should look different -- not look like your living room. Everyone talks about blending – I talk about the excitement of difference,” he said.
I’m not interested in warming ovens and televisions,” he states assuredly in contrast to the rising tide of ‘trends’ that make outside look like a sports bar…

Shaking his head somewhat bewilderedly, he adds, “For some reason, outside has become this new male domain.”
And not in a good way, I might add.

“While I want to engage the men, when I’m at a dinner party, and people hear what I do, it stops them. They never heard of anyone actually being a garden furniture designer!”
They have a notion of what they think it is…

The design solution is personal for Danzer.
Working with his clients is a process.
There is no “I need this by Memorial Day” kind of flip off.
The work will take time and talent.
There will be a relationship triangulated among the client, nature, and the garden furniture.

His designs and curating and talent are reined in to produce an enduring, personalized, customized bespoke work of garden art.
It’s a love affair.
The romance begins with a shared love of quality, garden history and garden design.

The World of Danzer
Today, Danzer is getting cozy in his beautiful new showroom and offices in Garrison, slated for a September opening.
He is busy overseeing work on updating his new web site. 
He is rebuilding his library and his archives.
“The place looks like the garage/office in the movie ‘A Beautiful Mind,’” he jokes. “There are papers everywhere!”
When asked, he forecast that his business will be almost the same size as it was prior to 2008 when the financial crisis hit and the bottom line suffered a 30-35% body blow.
Now, business is growing again; plus, Danzer, cites more international business, via London, Hawaii, Germany, and Brazil.

What does the future look like?
He is going to focus on producing and writing his book, about the history of mainstream garden furniture. From the medieval times to now.
This will be one comprehensive reference tome.

And he is looking forward to doing their new/old house in Spain.
“It’s going to be ravishingly beautiful garden furniture – inside and outside.”

How glamorous....

Visit the world of Munder-Skiles

And if you are very, very lucky, perhaps you can get John to collaborate with you to create your own magical world of garden art.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

NYBG Announces Summer Registration for Classes in Gardening, Landscape Design, Floral Design & Hort Therapy

NYBG Azalea Garden

Registration Now Open for New Summer Intensive Classes  
for Adults in Floral Design, Gardening, Botanical Art,  
Landscape Design, and Horticultural Therapy
Courses Starting July 9 at The New York Botanical Garden's  
Bronx and Midtown Locations

The New York Botanical Garden offers Adult Education summer classes in five high-interest areas: Floral Design, Gardening, Botanical Art, Landscape Design, and Horticultural Therapy  Students can jump-start a new career, expand their skills, and learn from exciting teachers and guest lecturers.

Instructors who are award-winning professionals in their fields lead these popular, full-time, hands-on education and training sessions.
Each program starts the week of July 9, 2012.
Course schedules vary: some are one week or two weeks in length; others are five weeks.

WHERE:         Courses take place in two locations:

The New York Botanical Garden
2900 Southern Boulevard
Bronx, NY 10458

NYBG Midtown Education Center
20 West 44th Street (between 5th & 6th Avenues)
New York, NY 10036

REGISTER:    Visit  or call 800.322.NYBG (6924).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tonight is the Official Launch of The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook at 92st Y!

Tonight will be considered the official launch of my book: The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook.
I am speaking at the 92st Y tonight.  Joining me are Jason Weiner, executive Chef and proprietor, Almond Restaurants located in Manhattan and Bridgehampton
And Chef Deborah Pittorino, executive Chef and proprietor, Cuvee Bistro & Bar Restaurant, Greenporter Hotel

Here is the invite for the Y event: Book Talk & Lecture at 92st Y

It’s been some years -- and some tears -- to get to this place.

Now it’s happy, nail biting time!  I’m told it’s the most successful of their books in pre-order so that is a good news start! 

This evening, I will provide an overview of the book, the making of the book, explain how chefs are alchemists: taking seasonal and fresh ingredients and turn them into food magic!
There will be lots of pictures and some video.
Chefs Jason and Deborah will talk while making on of the Homegrown recipes from the Cookbook. And of course, a wee bit of tasting.  Mmmmm.

Some Q&A and then book signings! 

This should be a fun and fitting tribute to all who helped make this book – especially the chefs and artisanal food growers and creators.
Epicurean nirvana awaits! 

And it will be fun too.

I was long fascinated by the fact that gardens can inspire artists – especially the culinary artist and wanted to explore that sweet spot.
I asked each chef I selected for the book his or her personal journey to becoming a dedicated Homegrown chef.
And I also asked the chef what grower inspired them the most and influenced their cuisine.

I can’t wait for you all to get your copy and rapturously read the chefs' and growers’ food stories. 

I hope it will inspire you.

A sneak peek inside the drop-dead gorgeous book, thanks to Mother Nature, the growers and the amazing work of the book’s photographers, Lindsay Morris and Jennifer Calais Smith.

Long before the island became the wealthy vacation mecca it is now, the native Shinnecock Indian tribe hunted, fished, and farmed on Long Island and taught the first European settlers how to do so—growing beans, foraging for wild plants, and using fish for fertilizer.
Farming became the island’s first industry. Today, potato pastures may have given way to orchards and vineyards, and dairy and goat farms may have replaced the heritage duck’s grass fields, but Long Island is still recognized as the most productive farming area in New York State.
The Island’s tableau and its cultural heritage of homegrown agriculture have inspired a cadre of ingredients-minded master chefs who possess a reverence for their local food source. They have studied and cooked in renowned four-star restaurants across the island, from the Gold Coast to Hampton Bays, and all over the world. Regardless of whether the chefs relocated to discover the charms of the island or left briefly to pursue the siren song of culinary education elsewhere, or couldn’t ever bear to leave, all feel the yearning for their terroir: Long Island.
The Hamptons and Long Island Homegrown Cookbook pays tribute to the remarkable, authentic farms, gardens, vineyards, and waterways that are Long Island. It also honors those chefs who are bringing Long Island’s unique homegrown harvest to food-obsessed plates and palates and, in the process, helping the island’s growers and food artisans preserve a precious way of life. Through their ardent beliefs, tenacity, and commitment to their craft and distinctive local cuisine, the chefs featured here have demonstrated a fidelity to the amazingly good, farm-forward Long Island cuisine.

Oh and I have made a Facebook page for the book.  Doesn't seem so seamless, but you can get there and Like it. Who wouldn't?!
Thank you.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ken Druse's latest Book, Natural Companions, offers Glamorous Plant Inspiration for every Garden

Author, gardener, and garden designer: Ken Druse, is a rare garden muse.

His latest book Natural Companions is a jewel. 
Looking for all the world like baubles from Tiffany’s or Cartier – whose jewelry designers take inspiration from the botanical world, by the way -- Druse and Ellen Hoverkamp, the book’s photographer cum botanical artist, present the plants as close-ups, glowing from within, against a rich, deep black background.
Not unlike pearls or diamonds on a black velvet jewel box.

It is a stunning, take-your-breath-away, glamorous visual gift at every turn of the page.

If you do nothing more than gaze rapturously at the botanical art you will be richly rewarded.
Druse’s book is a sensual experience.
It’s big, it’s bold, and it’s beautiful. 
I love the elegant black background of the cover and the plant-part morphology beauty shots (see my Garden Glamour blog page background J
Like pearls on that little black dress, the black backdrop makes a visually stunning canvas for the dazzling horticultural gems as presented by Ken and artist Hoverkamp.

In fact, Druse’s latest book, Natural Companions is a masterful, brilliant garden design concept.

The book is sumptuously and intuitively charted by the themes within seasons, with topics that include color, texture, fragrance, foliage, edible flowers, places, water gardens, and grasses.

The fact is this is a “Look Book” for the garden designer and garden lover. 
It’s a how-to guide. 
Confused by the myriad plant choices? 
Does the thought of daylilies leave you dumbfounded? 
The sight of winter Salix leave you sagging?

This book is a garden design aid for those who are flummoxed by the world of plant choices available for a good garden design. 
Likewise, it is an inspiration and a new way to look at plant combinations for those who pride themselves on knowing their Lady Slipper from their Lilac.

At a recent MetroHort meeting, Druse charmed the horticulturists in attendance with his overview of the book and his making of the book.

Ken always manages to make the never-ending world of plants snap back to the personal – and here he shows gardens in situ, such as the Green Gardens of Short Hills in the Garden State

His talk also mixed in his own garden tribulations – he lost his beloved Garden State garden in the climate trifecta last year that wielded a three-punch knock out following Hurricane Irene, a fall snowstorm and a Nor’easter, tropical storm Lee.
But hope springs eternal, especially in a garden and most especially as narrated by Druse at the lecture. 
What would have rendered most gardeners to throw in the shovel; he is humbled but not daunted.  He had the audience laughing with him.

His knowledge of plants is extensive and genuine – I have just about all 17 of his garden books -- most of which are autographed too, I’m proud to say.  This is a man who creates a horticultural language. 
His to  “Botanize” is one I will steal!

It’s his garden mirth along with his creativity and hort smarts that makes all the difference. 
Heck, there are lots of people who know a lot about botany, horticulture, and gardens.
But it’s the way that Druse approaches the subject that makes his art so coveted. 
His worldview and his eye focuses or sheds sunshine on a place that we wouldn’t have ever thought about.  Druse takes us on a botanical journey and inspires us. 
He works mightily to present a book that we know we must have.
To use – not just sit o the coffee table -- although just placing the book on it would all the more accessorize any table.

At the conclusion of the MetroHort talk, the award-winning New York garden designer, Lynn Torgerson signaled, “This was a ‘Killer Presentation’ that set off resounding applause.
This is a MetroHort equivalent of a standing ovation.
The audience was gob smacked!

My notes from the evening are filled with plant combinations. 

For the Color Combinations, I see I wrote: Monochromatic, and to much laughter, to buy “I’m here for you yellow and green.”

Analogous, showed colors that are right next to one another in color wheel, pointing out the Betty Compton and Clematis in roses.

Complementary -- across the color wheel, or split complementary there are foliage colors such as the silver gardens at Old Westbury Gardens
Druse talked about Water Gardens, which is like poking a stick in the eye of Neptune.  Remember, this is a gardener who lost his 2-acre gardens to the river and rain…

Regardless, he told the audience about his early love affair with pitcher plants.  He said he got samples from a private collection and tried and tried.  “Three strikes, you’re out!” he said to much laugher. 

He finally got the Jack in the Pulpits to grow from seed, telling how he propagated by cleaning and storing but they always seemed to dry up, until he devised a duct tape style process that he rigged up.
He put the seeds in in bag, in a toilet’s tank to keep them moist!  “Sure enough, this time, the seeds came up when planted,” he said.  “Just be sure to use the tank, not the bowl,” he admonished while grinning.

He showed Shakespeare gardens and Victorian gardens – that no one does anymore but he showed off the carpet gardens at Mohank Mountain House adding, “This is one of few places to do great job this type of garden design.”

Druse also showed incredible Containers gardens using tender perennials and sexy edible gardens. I love that checkerboard lettuce.

And he encouraged gardening with kids.  “Please plant a tree with a kid” he encouraged the audience.   

While his Garden State gardens are no more, he noted, “I will never sell my house.”
And the book, Natural Companions also serves as a memoir. A botanical homage and tribute to his love of plants and gardens.

You must get this book.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tribute to Garden and Horticulture icon Frank Cabot

Frank Cabot’s spirit and genius will remain forever among all those who love and admire and respect plants.

Mr. Cabot left this world November 21, 2011 and, as I Tweeted at that time, Mr. Cabot surely took a garden journey to “The Greater Perfection.”

It took three-plus extraordinary horticultural institutions to honor the always larger than life, icon of all things horticultural: Frank Cabot.

On Monday, April 30, 2012, The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) and Wave Hill co-hosted, a The Garden Conservancy tribute to Cabot.

The private memorial was held at NYBG, filling the Arthur and Janet Ross lecture hall with friends, family, and admirers of this great friend of gardens. 

The guests from Manhattan, were already greeting one another and chatting breezily on the train up to NYBG and the walk to the Garden on the impossibly clear and warm afternoon for the reflection on Cabot’s “new way of thinking about gardens in America.”

In the foyer, guests were checked in quickly; Frank’s books and the “Les Quatre Vents” DVD were available for sale.  There was continued happy hellos and seating courtesies, and soon, Envisioning a Greater Perfection was underway.

Antonia Adezio, President of The Garden Conservancy, the institution Cabot founded at the suggestion of his wife, Anne, welcomed the guests to the tribute and introduced Gregory Long, president of NYBG who welcomed all to the Garden and spoke a bit about Cabot’s contribution to NYBG and to horticulture.
Antonia Adezio, President of the Garden Conservancy opens the Frank Cabot tribute

Angela Lansbury, a friend of Anne’s from childhood and an honorary chair, the Garden Conservancy, spoke next.  

Angela Lansbury pays tribute to Cabot

She told us she was on that first garden visit to the The Ruth Bancroft Garden with the Cabots. This was the seminal moment, we were told, when Cabot lamented how sad and regrettable it would be to lose an extant garden like the Bancroft. 
Cabot & Lansbury were garden friends
Anne Cabot chided him to do something about it and to the endless gratitude of garden lovers, he did.  The Garden Conservancy was launched.  And with a garden angel like Cabot winging the organization’s development and inspiration, there was no doubt it would be a success.  

Envisioning a Greater Perfection
The Garden Conservancy Tribute to Frank Cabot was a 90-minute reflection presented by leading horticulturists, friends and family, followed by a wine reception in the Garden Terrace Room.

The guests were each given a lovely program with the day’s agenda plus quotes from other garden enthusiasts and luminaries including Mac Griswold and Paula Deitz.  The program is a very nice remembrance and a collectable.

Barbara Paul Robinson spoke after Ms. Lansbury. An attorney by profession, Robinson worked for Penelope Hobhouse, the National Trust and Rosemary Verey, and her book on Verey is due out shortly: Rosemary Verey: The Life and Lessons of a Legendary Gardener
Robinson also pointed out that Verey bequeathed her garden design plans to NYBG.  What a coup.  Lobbying of a sort was launched by her suggestion that the Garden install a Verey garden design for the public to experience and learn from.  Got my vote.

Robinson described how both Verey and Hobhouse admired and adored Cabot.
Hobhouse just wasn’t able to make the trip from England, so Robinson read the letter the garden legend wrote for Hortus magazine that honored Cabot and his garden vision.  She noted how Frank seemed like an immortal. His design sense and plant knowledge were on full display at Les Jardins de Quatre Vents Quatre Vents

She wrote about what she considered his most ambitious private garden construction since World War II and how it could be a dangerous drive with Frank when plants were on his mind, penning, “He almost worshipped plants.”

The next five speakers are all plants-people and spoke of their relationship to Cabot, “painting a picture of Frank in the firmament of plants and horticulture.”

Dan Hinkley
Dan Hinkley, founder of Heronswood Nursery the much-loved and respected Washington State plant nursery spoke first. 
Hinkley quoted T. Robbins, “Passion is the genesis of genius” paraphrasing, he said, to his North Michigan lexicon to mean, “Go big, or go home!”

In soft and frequent emotional tones, Hinkley described meeting Cabot at his home garden, Stonecrop, and how that visit permanently determined his future. 
Cabot evidenced a passion for the “wants and needs of the plants vs. the garden,” he explained.
Hinkley said his back grew weary carrying forth Cabot and his Les Quatre Vents inspiration….
“And no singing frogs at Heronswood, though” he said to more laughter.
Hinkley shared a touching insight into Cabot’s passion for plants; telling a story about walking in a cool Japanese ravine, filled with lilies and primrose.  “Frank stooped to pick one flower, held aloft to admire the sepal, design and fragrance. 
“He was alone in the moment – seeing the universe in that moment. It is a moment of a true plantsman and showed his passion for life.” Hinkley said.

Marco Polo Stufano, founding director of horticulture at Wave Hill, a hobbit of a gardener, happily fuddled with his slides, the mere presence of which made him an anachronism, he laughed.
Stufano declared, “Gardening is one of the fine arts.”
He told his Cabot garden stories in pictures and spoke glowingly of Cabot’s dedication to enduring design.
“He painted a garden with living materials,” said Stufano.
Good garden design is filled with repeated failure, he offered to much head-nodding. “Good gardeners kill plants,” he added.  Gardens are trial and error, and plans must be thought of in decades not immediate gratification.  The enjoyment of creating a garden is the point of it all…

Stufano showed a number of the Garden Conservancy’s garden network, including Peckerwood Garden

Burgess showing Cabot working at Stonecrop
Caroline Burgess, director of Stonecrop Gardens, once the home of Anne and Frank Cabot, but since 1992, a public garden and a school of practical horticulture under Burgess’ leadership.  

A British national, Burgess provided the most fun and intimate profile of Cabot, starting with how she placed a phone call – from one of those red London phone booths, I imagine, saying Rosemary suggested she contact Frank for help networking a job at Wave Hill -- He has connections,” she told Burgess.
He could possibly help getting her work in the States. 
Burgess worked up the courage, and with a few coins, placed the call to Mr. Cabooo, she said in her high-pitched Downton Abbey high tea voice. 
With all the juggling of the phone on Cabot’s end, she was soon running out of money.
Just in time, Cabot said, “Give me your number. I will call you back,” he commanded.  Then said, “And FYI, in America, we say CaboT,” she mimicked, emphasizing the “T.”
Cabot added, “But please call me Frank.” 
The audience roared with laughter.

When she picked up the receiver for the return call from Cabot, he told her to forget Wave Hill and come to work directly for him at the their home estate, Stonecrop garden. 
She did.

She described that the Cabot estate was being nurtured by Frank and Anne who had taken an adult education course at NYBG, titled, “How to Improve Your Yard.”
She paused for emphasis and sent the guests into much endearing laughter for the sheer charm of that anecdote.
She added, “Obviously, that was quite a good course!” sending the audience back into peals of laughter.
Burgess related examples of Cabot’s kindness, plant knowledge, and hort networking. “He was a genius at placing people – and plans, “ she said.

Over the years, he wrote her countless letters of support and inspiration.
She cited one delightful letter in particular when he wrote her early on to encourage her to move to New York, quoting a 1909 song that preached, “Heaven will protect the working girl!”
It gave her confidence, she smiled. 

I think there is a book waiting to be written with these letters into the heart and mind of the relationship between Burgess and Cabot and the gardens.

“Frank was a jokester, a comedian and a great cook,” she noted, launching into a story about his winning a Blue Ribbon at a local plant show for his dead plant, vomitas Rigormatis!”   The guests roared with laughter at this one.

“He was so good at so many things and we are most fortunate he chose plants as his overarching passion,” she concluded while showing images of some of Cabot’s favorite plants including double hepatica and the blue poppies.  

Dick Lighty, founding director of Mt.Cuba Center began his advocacy-themed tribute to Cabot with a Disraeli quote about the man and the time to get things done, that served as a context for Cabot’s personal character and traits that made him so successful.
Dick Lighty

“Frank believed in public gardens and served on many boards and offered his support to help the gardens achieve stewardship,” said Lighty. “He was a sought-after speaker on this topic.”

Frank was the epitome of the gentleman gardener, noted Lighty.

Colin Cabot, chairman, Stonecrop Gardens, and son of Frank and Anne Cabot was the last speaker of the day, and provided a robust, rousing tribute and a few fun reflections, all delivered in a theatrical and poignant way.  Colin looks like the quintessential prep school lad and full of spunk and style. 
Colin Cabot
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. 

Colin began with a quote from “Candide” to reference Les Quartre Vents and the idea of  maintaining gardens.  Saying, “Voltaire agreed, ‘Let us cultivate our gardens’ We too must take care of this earth,” Colin said.

“Frank had a visceral response to plants,” Colin observed.
“He could weep at their beauty and ephemeral quality.”

“This passion could also lead to botanical excess,” Colin remarked. And then he told the story about how the New Zealand Cabot home came about after Frank saw plants he loved it was suggested he visit the island nation.  “A common suggestion can take a permanent life change when it came to Frank…”

Colin also told how his father insisted on preparing the soil and digging in for a row of thuja hedge plantings, evidencing patience and practicality in his quest for perfection.

On a humorous aside, Colin noted how all their dogs were named after single malt scotches, Dalwhinnie being a favorite (mine too J  Not the dog, but the scotch.)

When he and his father took overnight plant explorations, Frank was known to bring a rasher of bacon, cast iron pans and a bottle or two of wine and scotch, to be enjoyed during cocktail hour, thus achieving a gastronomic and artistic level of perfection!

Colin completed his prideful reflection of garden love with a few pronouncements that are sure to keep
Frank Cabot’s vision alive:
·      To respect the vision
·      To inherent the legacy
·      To inhabit – to get to know the land
·      To invest in the gardens well-being (I won’t ask for a check today – but “Just you wait,” he bellowed affectionately.
·      To interpret – to keep the gardens in good hands

Antonia thanked everyone.
Todd Forrest, vice president of Horticulture at NYBG invited everyone to take advantage of the peak blooms in the Azalea Garden before heading to the wine reception in the Garden Terrace Room.

I scooted over.

It was a perfection that Frank would have loved. 
The garden was brilliant: the colors, the planting, and the chirp of chipmunks and birds were otherworldly.

The reception was lighthearted and gave the guests a chance to share garden stories about Frank Cabot and springtime, renewal tales. 
Susan Cohen, Landscape Architect, Coordinator of NYBG Landscape Design program

Garden Author extraordinaire, Ken Druse (L) Latest is gorgeous & practical, "Natural Companions"

HSNY's brilliant director, George Pisegna, (L) & Nathan Lamb, Stonecrop manager

Garden writer Elizabeth Barlow Rogers (L) & curator & author, Magda Salvesen

Following the reception, the bus was filled to take guests to Wave Hill for a private a garden re-dedication ceremony in honor of Frank Cabot.

Note: I have a priceless photograph of Mr. Cabot and me from an NYBG event that, initially, I was a bit reticent to share. However after telling the story about it with Colin at the reception, I think it will be just fine. 
All good fun. Up next…