Thursday, April 25, 2013

Repairing Damage to Plants & Garden Post Sandy Interview in Two River Times

I can't believe I neglected to share this news story interview with The Two River Times.  I was so busy with preparing for my talk on How to Design a Kitchen Garden - and garden design work...

The work of post-Sandy garden and plant care is important.  
With spring, we can more earnestly and aggressively provide remedial care and love to restore and improve our gardens.

Enjoy the news interview.  

By Michele J. Kuhn
The battering of area properties by Super Storm Sandy has not been just to beaches, buildings, cars and boats. Gardens, plants, trees and shrubs have certainly been impacted too.
H&G-PLANTS14.12“I think everyone and everything has been so astonishingly devastated,” said Leeann Lavin, a garden and landscape designer and owner of Duchess Designs in Atlantic Highlands. “For some of my clients, their garden was just gone. We walked into the yard … and it was as if Sandy – and Athena after it – just sort of mowed off the side of the earth.”
Since shortly after the Oct. 29 storm, Lavin has been helping her clients work through the things they need to do to help ensure their landscaping and gardens will return to their former beauty.
“I think the first thing is assessing what has happened,” she said. “Even last fall, right after the storm, I went to my clients to see and assess what the damage was… As soon as we could, we started with a seven-part cleanup plan that I put together.
“It’s kind of curious – here are all these tradesman going in to do the kitchen and the flooring to redo the house and then they look at us and say, ‘You know, I never heard about the plants.’ I say, ‘Look at the investment that the homeowners put into the landscaping.’ Plus these are alive, they are living things, they aren’t like a chair.”
Clearing the debris and sea grass that was deposited on clients’ property was the first order. Washing vegetation with clear water to clean off the salt came next. She then worked the soil with gypsum to counteract the salt, added lime to correct the pH plus an organic soil nutrient and then soil enriched with horse manure to help restore the earth. She also mulched.
“I think it’s really important for everyone to test the soil,” she said. Soil testing kits are available at many hardware and garden stores. Rutgers University also runs a soil-testing laboratory and kits are available from county cooperative extension offices or forms may be downloaded from the lab’s website at
Another problem Lavin has been dealing with is restoring vegetation that has become compromised by pathogens because of the storm. A lot of shrubs have been impacted, “especially you’ll see the devastation around holly. A lot has this Indian wax scale on them … You’ll see this around. A lot of pathogens have set in,” Lavin said.
H&G-PLANTS2-4.12The garden designer recommends that, as she has done for her clients, area gardeners wash their plants, if they haven’t already done it, and add gypsum to the soil. “It can’t hurt it,” she said. Then work to repair and nourish the soil after having it tested to determine what it needs.
“In horticulture circles, people often say, ‘If you feed the soil, the soil will feed the plants.’ If you do little else, if you get the soil right, the plants have a better chance.
“The other thing that is really, really important is that trees have been devastated.”
Some trees were damaged by utility companies cutting branches – she believes strongly in putting utility lines underground. Trees must be properly pruned, she said.
“I think we have a disregard for our trees; we don’t take care of them. Sometimes people say to me, ‘I can’t really afford to take care of them.’ I say, ‘If you don’t do that, you will pay somewhere down the line with higher heating or cooling costs or perhaps the tree will fall on a house’ … Much of the devastation was caused by trees falling on houses. The trees were not taken care of,” Lavin said.
“I look at gardens as not only art but as outdoor living,” she said. “If you are going to be living out there, you really need to treat the outdoor garden room as an extension of the home.”
She recommends gardeners look at the use of “good, native plants” and prune trees and shrubs during the next few weeks.
“I will be focusing, now going forward, to do an inventory and see what has survived the winter and see what is good,” she said. “I’ll make up lists … and see what can we do for the plants to help them help us.”
Lavin also favors gardens that can feed the gardener. “In general, I think we need to grow more edibles,” she said. “People have gotten away from growing their own food but it makes a difference to your health.”
She also is one of the many area residents who are happy to see spring return.
“Plants are resilient and hopefully, after the storms and the long, dark winter, everyone will now be looking for the spring and color and a happy time,” she said.
Leeann Lavin
Leeann Lavin
Lavin, who works in the New Jersey, New York and Long Island area, describes her work as “artful designs” that feature native plants. She has worked at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. She is a painter – working in watercolors – and a writer of food and drink and is the author of the book The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook.
She will be appearing 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 17, at the Strauss Mansion, 27 Prospect Circle, for the Atlantic Highlands Historical Society to give a talk about how to create a kitchen garden.
Link to Two River Times online news post:

My Comment:

Thank you so very much for covering this important subject of post-Sandy garden repair. We love our Garden State gardens :) and they need all the love and smart care we can give them. They will reward us – in spades…
And thank you for the news announcement for the Atlantic Highlands Historical Society last Wed. The talk about How to Design Kitchen Gardens – and about my book, The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook, was so successful – and I know you played a big part in alerting the interested, friendly audience – who were most keen to grow and eat fruits, herbs and vegetables grown for taste – not transport! Delicious, Garden State homegrown food is the ultimate luxury!
And to clarify please, my email is
Thank you again.
The Homegrown Cookbook can be purchased at River Road Books in Fair Haven or online: (and let me know – I will autograph :)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Exploration & Observations of the Dazzling New York Botanical Garden Orchid Show

The Orchid Show at The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) is stunning.
It’s Breathtaking.

Words fall away…
So does the other world – the one where the lens is not mesmerized by plant portraits.  

There is really no need to add text to this post.  
Silly to attempt to augment the stars of the show?
But I’m a storyteller so you will forgive me for a few tidy observations…

The annual Orchid Show just keeps getting better. 
I worked at NYBG at the time the very first Orchid show was conceived and launched to much fanfare.  But there was also that slightly malodorous whiff of hort disdain. Yes, every genre has the taste-makers and buzz-builders: those influencers who seem to set the pace.

It was said that the NYBG Orchid Show “merely” showed off an abundance of candy-colored Moth Orchids – the now, rather ubiquitous Phalaenopsis.
The insult being, “How Common.”
The idea that a large portion of the orchid display was made up of orchids you could buy rather on the cheap from – a box store such as Walmart - was just too much to bear, horticulturally-speaking.

The hort tribe - threw its garden-honed muscle and respect behind that other orchid show – the original one (this was rumored to have been displaced from the NYBG homestead in the Bronx – But that’s another story.)

The New York International Orchid Show at Rockefeller Center produced a very sophisticated and rather cerebral orchid show with lots of rare and curious orchid species – more often than not grown by some of the country’s major orchidists.

But all that said, Rockefeller Center was never the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

The NYBG Orchid Show inside the New York City Landmark Glass House is transporting. 

The orchids seduce you from the moment you step inside and shamelessly stare, transfixed at the magic of the orchids – dripping from trees and arbors and rocks.  

Their glamorous beauty resonates and reflects dimension from the black pool centered in the entry foyer with a gentle plink, plink of the fountain…
Like fireworks, the blooms grab your attention.  And your heart.

The outside world melts into memory, and you give yourself over to the world of orchids.

You can’t get enough.  
You want to know where they come from. How do they grow? 

The orchid collection is brilliantly curated, too.  

I meant to take a quick peek at the orchids as I was at the Garden for a lecture and wanted to just stop by and take a few pictures before I headed over to the Shop and sign a few of my Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbooks there.  
After all, I had seen the show every year.  What hadn’t I seen before?

But honestly, I couldn't resist the orchids.  They beckoned me to walk among them.
NYBG writes: This year The Orchid Show is designed by Francisca P. Coelho, Vivian and Edward Merrin Vice President for Glasshouses and Exhibitions at the Garden. Coelho is best known for her plantsmanship and key role in the design and development of high-profile shows in the Conservatory.

I downloaded the NYBG app for my iPhone (after deleting a lot of video and photos to accommodate the space!) and felt smug about my cool Hort capabilities.
Curiously, there is no Orchid Show on the App!  How can this be? NYBG notes, “This is the largest exhibition of its kind in the United States.”

Well, one can’t stay too steamed with all that beauty and the orchids just whispering to you to come hither.  

So, I used the coded numbers to call on my phone and listened to either Coelho or NYBG president Gregory Long provide the docent talk, a la the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s classic Phillippe de Montebello’s hand-held, guided tour.

Looking at my notes, I see I scribbled some salient take aways:
  •          There are 30,000 naturally occurring orchid species
  •          Tens of thousands are horticulturally created hybrids
  •          Orchids are one of the largest and most diverse families of flowering plants, growing in almost every habitat
  •         Orchids have myriad shapes and forms

I have always been particularly drawn to the Vanilla Orchid (and I am writing a children’s story about it, in fact – part lore and part fiction). 
There is a very nice display of this sweetie of an orchid.  

I don’t care for the too-garish Corsage orchid and so passed by these candy-colored show offs.

On the other hand, the wispy flowers of the oncidium Tsiku Margaurite looked like petticoats on the palm tree trunks.  

While taking this photo, I overheard a bit of garden humor exchange: A visitor asked the gardener how he keeps it all so green, the hort expert joked, “We use green spray paint!”

The Pacific Paradise was so feathery – they looked like ballet dancers leaping or jete-ing.

The butterfly orchid – said to have launched “Orchidmania” in England in the 19th Century“ consists of “only four species” and grows on the trunks of West Indian and Costa Rican tree trunks.  What love…

The Orchid Show meanders through the entire Glass House but the show-stoppers are held for the finale.

The exuberant displays dazzle the eyes upon entering this Wizard of Oz-like transformation to unbridled brilliance. 
It’s a soft fireworks display:  Look here. No there.  

The ambiance created is a sensual assault of color, abetted by the sound of soft Caribbean style Latin music and the soothing tinkle of water from the fountains and limpid pools, along with the steamy, hanging, dripping moss necklaces and terrestrial woodlands.

There you will find rare Lady Slipper orchids.  Exotic Bromeliads arch like trained athletes poised.
You will delight in learning how smart, clever orchids save water when rain is scarce.  
Or how the Dancing Lady Orchid borrows from other orchids…

There are the diminutive ground dwellers – like tiny jewels - that tempt you to look down and bend in for a more intimate conversation. That yellow, sweet sugar is reason alone.

The scented orchids were always a heartthrob for me. I had chocolate and coconut scented orchids and my husband would say it was like sitting with an Almond Joy!
The Oncidiums in the show line part of an orchid allee. The Sharry Baby Heaven Scent oncidiums are redolent.

Much has been written about the most rare orchid, Angraecum sesquipedale, Darwin’s Star Orchid.  It is the stuff of legend. 

Here, NYBG tells it:
The story goes that Darwin was sent a sample of the flower in 1862. Upon seeing its long, narrow, nectar tube, he predicted that there must be an insect with a very long proboscis (a tongue-like part) that could reach deep within the hollow space to “drink” the nectar at the bottom. In so doing the insect would bump into the flower’s sticky pollen, enabling its transfer from one flower to another.
But no such insect had ever been seen in Madagascar where the orchid came from, or anywhere else. And many scientists believed Darwin was wildly wrong, so he was ridiculed for his prediction.
Nonetheless, Darwin firmly believed that the star orchid had developed its long nectar tube as an adaptation to help ensure pollination because orchid flowers have their pollen in a single mass and cannot disperse it as other flowers do. The orchids need their specific insect pollinators to survive.
Sure enough, about four decades after Darwin’s prediction, an insect with the exact physical characteristics that Darwin had predicted was discovered. Called the Hawk Moth, its scientific name is Xanthopan morganii praedicta, which is Latin for ‘predicted moth’ in honor of Darwin. (Watch a nighttime video showing the moth interacting with the orchid.)

The happy, pansy-face orchids bid you farewell near the exit.  

The Orchid Show runs through April 22.  Don’t miss it. If you’ve seen it once – go again.

Do you grow orchids? If you do, what is your favorite?  If not, try it.  Orchids are easy and most rewarding to grow.  I've often said that orchids are like the jewelry of the plant world.

How glamorous!  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Martha Stewart "Gift For The Gardener" Picks The Hamtpons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook

I never do this -- or hardly ever -- but because the news is so BIG and because the news channels both my Homegrown Cookbook AND gardens, I'm re-purposing or using a news story I did for my Celebrity Chefs and Their Gardens blog here on Garden Glamour.

After all,  Martha Stewart chose the book as a Garden Gift pick!
Enjoy the garden and good food news story.
It's a sparkler.

This was just too crazy!
I had been so anticipating and hoping the Martha Stewart feature recommendation would happen for my book.

I am much too polite to follow up much with my esteemed garden friends, Stephen Orr, editorial director for Gardening, Martha Stewart Living and his enduring, plant-loving associate, Melissa Ozawa, Martha Stewart Living, senior editor Gardening.

I think you may remember I had attended a lovely, only-in-Gotham-soiree last late autumn – (or was it early winter?) hosted by Gael Towey, chief integration and creative director of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO) nearby Greenwich Village townhouse.

Here I met up with Stephen and Melissa – and Martha -- and Stephen told me they were planning to highlight my book, The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook on the Martha Stewart online Gift Guide.
I impetuously hugged Stephen.  I was overcome with unbridled joy.  Plus I do love Stephen J 

But in my overscheduled world where it seems I never get a chance to really catch up – in fact, it rather seems I just glide from one exciting event or deadline to another, this Homegrown milestone eluded me. 
I pride myself on my use of social media.  It’s no secret I have two Facebook pages, two Twitters, two blogs, three email accounts, and yet this Gift Guide “gift” from Martha was nowhere on my radar.

How could this happen?

Martha Messenger
It was only after EunYoung Sebazco, landscape designer and plant whisperer told me about it over exquisite plates of fresh sushi at her chef friend’s Jewel Bakko restaurant. 
I was stunned.  And so thankful she shared the good news. 

I have to write to Stephen and Melissa to atone for what must look like my ill-mannered non-response.

Allow me to digress a second. EunYoung is one of those angels you can’t believe you are fortunate enough to have crossed paths with in this galaxy. That you are able to call her friend is nothing short of life’s little miracles.  I will write about her shortly on “Garden Glamour.”  But I can’t say enough good things about her and her work. So indulge me. After all, she is the “Martha Messenger:”
Among her many artistic talents and quiet achievements is producing Gotham’s first-ever rice paddy:

Gift Guide
There is the no-doubt, bust-my-buttons pride for the recognition in Martha’s Picks.
It’s surely a dream come true that I want to be able to bask in for a nano-second. 
I couldn’t be more gobsmacked by it all.
Especially that “my” chefs and growers received the recognition they deserve.

Martha wrote:
Much more than just a book of recipes, this lush cookbook profiles outstanding Long Island chefs and their personal gardens.

Here is the link to the Martha Garden Gift Guide Pick:

Homegrown Friends

And you know what’s most rewarding and memorable as the actual achievement?

I shared the news on Facebook and the overwhelming Friends’ support makes me cry with joy. 
And blush.

The support ranged from “you deserve it” to “Love this!!! Congrats xoxo” to “This is the Cat’s Meow, terrific” to one of my dearest former bosses, Bob Dorf, writing: “Wow, Leeann … I knew it would be so, but you are every bit as much of a brilliant star in your “new” field as you were in your many years in pr. Congratulations… guess I better stop typing and buy one J

The group hug and Friend support is just as good a feeling.  I LOVE my friends!
Thank you.

So now, perhaps we can all take a moment and bask in the Homegrown and “Martha” moment.

But not for too long. 
It’s Hamptons Restaurant Week!  April 7-14th.
Enjoy the bounty of the gardens and the restaurants.