Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Summer Entertaining & Installing a Water Garden Fountain in time for a family party

Nothing says summer like a big family party – made all the better by celebrating more than a few Leo birthdays.

Did you know there are more Leo’s than any other zodiac sign? 
Hmmm, let’s see.  Counting back nine months, it must be that woozy, Thanksgiving food coma or its key nutrient tryptophan or snuggly cool November nights!

All the more reason to pause and indulge in enchanting Summer entertaining because we can celebrate outdoors – with nature. In the garden.

The only thing disrupting this Eden-like utopian dream for us was that our garden was a lot less verdant; pre-party.
The sad reality was it was still more of a modified construction site. 

In fact, we just had the front walk I designed installed for Independence Day. 

The newly-installed turf had taken, it was true, despite no irrigation system, and all was a vast improvement.
But there was that hard to ignore, pesky blob of sand, weeds, wood planks, and useless plastic protecting this junkyard, er, our yard.

Regardless, family was in from Arizona, with their extended family; to celebrate the 80th birthday of my dear cousin’s mother/my aunt/my late father’s last surviving sister. 
Got that? 

Take away? 
It was a special family event that begged for an elegant menu to celebrate and honor my beloved father’s sister. 
I naturally collaborated with my cousin for the celebration and while he attempted to keep it “simple and not a big deal or fancy – truth is that any really special, memorable party indeed cries out for a glamorous, delicious, homegrown menu.


If everyone serves hamburgers & hot dogs from the supermarket (with all its attendant corporate, disease-laden frights – not only is it Boring!  (
Recognize this communication: “Ok, you bring the potato salad and noodle salad and I’ll get the dogs and burgers and steak.”
Voila—there is the weekend menu. 
No.  That is code for: “I don’t really know what to make and am scared to serve my guests something else – and I daresay, much like politics and its code, learning and trying and making more than the average menu is not “Code” for “fancy.” 
I have listened to too many people say, “I don’t do fancy.”  “I’ll just have burgers and dogs and….” 
How utterly boring.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a Wimpy.  I LOVE, LOVE, Love a burger more than most.
I could eat my way through any region just on burgers.
But the key -- moreover the point that I share with my Hamptons and Long Island Homegrown Cookbook fans and anyone else who is committed to good food --  is that if one is hosting a party, let’s PLEASE make it as special as the guests you’ve invited and the reason for the party to begin with 
Yes, it takes work to come up with a menu.
Yes, it takes work to make the food.

But food is love – just a four-letter word spelled differently. J

The code for “I don’t know what to do or to serve” or “I don’t do fancy” really means no one wants to take the time to lovingly produce a menu they can make, or at least one that a local caterer can make. 

How to remedy this ill?

Take a deep breath. 
Inhale the beauty of family, love, and spending time with those you care most about. 
And if you don’t want to cook and prepare the food – no problem. 
You who are all things glamorous and homegrown – can produce the menu.
You can have a local caterer or local garden center foodie court prepare the food.

I am so trying to encourage you to move away from the fear of having more than a few people over for dinner or lunch or brunch – and just serving “Safe Food”
The honest to god’s truth is that that stor-
 bought corporate stuff is waaay less than safe in the long run. 
Burger patties already cut?  Yikes. Who knows where that came from.
Hot Dogs that are predisposed to icky and only more so when the corporate scraps are swept up.

Don’t do it.

You who wouldn’t give your family any less than the best shouldn’t feel intimidated by the honor of producing a family dinner or lunch party that is Homegrown, delicious, local and seasonal.

Here is my menu for my aunt’s 80th birthday party. 

Aunt Anne Birthday Dinner

5:00 pm cocktail: Beer, wine, martini, garden-harvest mint iced tea.
Nuts, pretzels
Club Sandwiches – w /flag toothpicks
Cherry Tomato Gazpacho from my Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook from The Lake House: Chef Matt 
Grilled BBQ Pizza  - my idea
Tzatziki Yogurt Spread: low fat yogurt, cucumber, garlic, dill, olive oil, salt

6:00 pm to 9 pm Dinner followed by Birthday cupcakes


·      Pretzel-Onion Crusted BBQ Chicken with Pretzel Latkes, Corn, and Mustard – Chef David Burke 
·      Meatloaf Bundt Cake – Chef David Burke Cookbook  
·      Potato Salad with Dill – Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook
·      Butternut Squash Saltimbocca with Burrata Cheese – Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook   from Kitchen A Bistro, Chef Eric


Aunt Jeanne desserts
Homemade ice cream – Garden State peaches (wooahh!)
Mint Filled Brownie Cupcakes  - Martha Stewart recipe- Mother made and lucky strike extra?  Niece and budding pastry talent, Tara, made her version for the big birthday surprise party two days later.
See how good food inspires and begets yet more good food?!

The menu was sourced from my just-released book: “The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook”  and from my soon to be released New York City Homegrown Cookbook that features David Burke and recipes from his cookbooks, plus my own favs, such as classic club sandwiches. 

I do my own twist on servings too –so I encourage you to do the same.
The classic club sandwich I do is morphed into the BLT --  one of my favs. 

I make the homemade mayo with our homegrown garlic. 
We use the fresh bread from my mother’s weekly baking and use The best bacon, our garden fresh tomatoes and lettuce and punctuate with an American flag toothpick!
I tier these on those Martha green ascending cake plates.
Guests can breezily indulge from the moment they arrive!

All garlic, tomatoes, potatoes, herbs, mint tea were sourced and made from our gardens and “farmette.”  

Chef David Burke recipe for American Classic bunt baked meat loaf

Mixing up gazpacho with Homegrown just picked ingredients

The Kitchen A Bistro butternut squash planks ready for cooking up

Kitchen A Bistro's Butternut Squash Saltimbocca recipe: our homegrown squash & sage

The Fountain Springs Forth

And once again, just like the front walk installation, the landscape design transformation for the water garden, was complete just as our guests were arriving! 
“Move that truck!” joyfully echoes in my head. 

I always work with Burke Honnold’s team for me and for my clients because they are artisans and do the very best work. 
It is precise, accurate, and well-- beautiful.
Due to cost, Burke had wisely suggested I go with a pre-made fountain rather than having the team make it, as we’d done for other clients.

And like magic, a fountain came into my life.
I found a tinkling fountain while on a nursery shopping trip for my client’ – filling in some container plants. 

Even now I’m not sure if the fountain was really for sale. There was no price tag.
I asked the sales person, Blanche --who was finishing up with another shopper there -- how much for the fountain, whereupon the shopper whipped her head around and quipped, “I’m going home with you!”
After some back and forth, listening to the fountain – (my husband hates that full-on waterfall sound vs. a lovely trickle of water.)

And my garden design fountain was destined for outside the dining room so that the lovely, soft, sensual sound of water would be soothing. 
Further, I wanted to provide a garden destination for cocktails where we could walk around the fountain, sit on the side, float candles….
And listen to the sound of water while dining.

On the less dreamy side, there were also more than a few chips in the fountain foundation. But for the right price, I could work with it.
We were in negotiations…

I readjusted the water garden design, made the parterres work and called to say “yes.”

Within a few days, it was being installed.
First the space for the circular base was measured, and dug.  

The fountain was then placed within the space and very delicately, the fountain was assembled.
The fabric liner was placed over the space.  

The fountain piece were locked into place like a puzzle.
The rubber mallet tapped it together.   

Then the metal was cut and bent for the parterre borders.  

It was amazing to watch.  

The water plants were put in:  

and the Fountain started up: 

The water garden will be bordered by Skip Laurels, box and winter blooming camellia and micro buxus.
The parterres should be filled with easy, fragrant lavender border by box; the variety as recommended by Earthy Delights.

In the meantime, I asked that mulch be put in the parterre beds.

Further, the side garden walk was installed with the same decomposed granite that is the walkway around the fountain and on the side of the front walk and the transition walk.  

I like it very much.  It complements our home look. The DG is the walkway in Paris’s Tiuilleries gardens and Chicago Botanic Gardens and featured in Garden Design Magazine. 

What’s not to love?  
It's a great first start and bones to a good garden design/foundation....

Next up: getting the border skip laurels in and the plants for the parterre planting…

Friday, August 24, 2012


The stars are aligned.  
Hollister House and the Garden Conservancy have seen to it that some of the garden constellations’ celebrated experts, heart-stopping garden tours, rare and regal plant swag – er sales – and of course, food and drink, are  center stage this weekend.

There couldn’t be a better weekend to celebrate all things garden.

August 24, 25 and 26 at Hollister House, located in bucolic Washington, Connecticut  is THE place to be.  For the entire weekend. Or for select programs.  There is a sublime lineup of lectures, and garden parties to select from.

If "study" sounds too head-crunching, cerebral for you?  
How about garden indulgence? 
Or immersion?  
Or the luxury of enjoying a garden lifestyle that befits passionate garden enthusiasts?

The Third Biennial Hollister House Garden Study Weekend
Gardening Anew: Fresh Perspectives on the Garden: explore sustainable practice and creative inspiration in our environment and aesthetic.
The weekend begins with a cocktail reception and rare plant sale on Friday evening, August 24, continues on Saturday, August 25 with the symposium and round table discussion , concluding on Sunday, August 26 with a Garden Conservancy Open Day.
The weekend is presented by Hollister House Garden, Washington, Connecticut, and the Garden Conservancy.

Friday evening, August 24 6 p.m.
Gala cocktail reception and plant sale at the Washington Montessori School: 
an opportunity to mingle informally with seminar speakers and other garden enthusiasts, and to take advantage of early buying at rare plant sale.

Saturday, August 25 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Seminar: Gardening Anew: Fresh Perspectives on the Garden
Saturday’s symposium takes place at the Washington Montessori School in comfortable, air-conditioned spaces with up-to-date lecture facilities. The day’s agenda includes a buffet luncheon, a sale of beautifully written and illustrated garden books, a plant sale featuring a select group of New England’s finest specialty plant growers, and a ‘show & tell’ plant talk.

Featured speakers:
Edwina von Gal, the seminar’s keynote speaker. von Gal is principal of her own celebrated international landscape design firm.
She will be joined by several outstanding professional horticulturists. All will address new ways to garden encompassing the knowledgeable use of native plants with attention to their form and function, sophisticated solutions found in the soil, and examples of fresh perspectives in the spirit of innovation and experimentation.
William Cullina, executive director, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Boothbay, Maine
Eric T. Fleisher, director of horticulture, Battery Park City Parks Conservancy, New York City
Bill Thomas, executive director, Chanticleer, Wayne, Pennsylvania
Stephen Orr, editorial director of gardening, Martha Stewart Living, and moderator of the seminar

If you haven't already secured your multiple copies of Orr's book, "Tomorrow's Garden: Design and Inspiration for a New Age of Sustainable Gardening," you can load up this weekend and get Stephen to autograph it at the Hickory Stick Book Shop!  
Tomorrow's Garden makes a perfect hostess gift and a holiday adventure for the garden lover on your list. 

Rare Plant Sale
A select group of specialty plant growers will sell rare plants throughout the day.
After 1 p.m., the rare plant sale opens to the general public. Before 1 p.m., only seminar participants will have access.
Buffet Luncheon

Garden Books Sale and Authors’ Signing
Garden books, many authored by symposium speakers and available for signing.

My book, “The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook” will be featured for sale.  Because I was committed to attend the Harvest East End event: scheduled for Saturday and benefitting East End Hospice, The Peconic Land Ttrust and Group for the East End, Hollister House was kind enough to allow me to provide buyers my personally autographed publisher’s inscription card as the next best thing to being there. 
I hate to miss this very special weekend.  Drats to conflicting schedules. Why does everything good have to happen at the same time?  But on the plus side, I will be supporting a wonderful cause, will be showcasing my book and enjoying all the wonderful world from “my” local, incredible, Homegrown chefs and the growers who inspire them.

Show & Tell’ Round Table

Favorite plants for the late-season garden, with commentary by garden writer Page Dickey, horticulturist Marco Polo Stufano, and nurseryman Adam Wheeler.
Location for Friday reception and Saturday seminar: Washington Montessori School

Sunday, August 26
Early birds can choose to start the day with a champagne breakfast, 8 – 10 a.m., on the beautiful rear lawn at the romantic country garden at Hollister House in Washington, Connecticut.
The grand finale to the gardening weekend is Sunday, when the Garden Conservancy opens several exceptional private gardens, including Hollister House Garden and others in nearby Litchfield and Roxbury, as part of its national Open Days program.
Read more about these gardens – including descriptions, directions, and the hours each will be open – on the Open Days schedule for the Litchfield County Open Day.

Friday evening: cocktail reception with early buying at the rare plant sale
Includes free ticket for door prize $75; members of Hollister House Garden and Garden Conservancy, $65
Saturday: all-day symposium $160, members $150
Includes breakfast and buffet lunch and rare plant sale 
Rare plant sale is open to the general public, free of charge, after 1 p.m.
Sunday: champagne breakfast at Hollister House Garden $25, members $20
A combination package is $245 per person, general admission ($230 for members of the Garden Conservancy or Hollister House Garden).
The combination package includes the festive Friday evening cocktail party, the entire Saturday program (with continental breakfast and buffet lunch) and Sunday morning champagne breakfast. Open Days gardens on Sunday are priced separately; read below.|
To register see below or mail payment to Hollister House Garden, P.O.Box  1454,  Washington, CT  06793
For further information call 860.868.2200.


The Open Days garden tours on Sunday are priced separately at $5 per person per garden.
Open Days tickets are available online (please allow time for shipping) or in person at the gardens on the tour.
Pre-registration is not required for Sunday’s Open Day tours.
Maps will be provided for all participants in the Hollister House Garden Study Weekend seminar.

Garden Conservancy Open Days
In addition to our normal schedule: open every Saturday from April 28 through September.
Garden tours are priced at $5 per garden - at the Garden Conservancy website, or may be purchased at the individual gardens on the day of the tour.