Tuesday, August 11, 2020

How to Create Glamorous, Garden-to-Glass At-Home Cocktails, Plus Recipes

Duchess Martini 

It was a crazy time.  The speed with which the Corona virus swooped into our lives -- our world -- was a force
force that seemed part tsunami, part disbelief, part denial. 

It was a weekend that cleaved our world. 

Let me turn the page back. 

At the end of the first week/beginning of the second week in March, we’d returned from our annual winter holiday ~ aka our beach book reading sojourn at our place in Aruba. Me and my husband Bill left our Gotham apartment March 12th to go to our country house as we do every weekend ~ not giving a second thought that we wouldn’t be returning to New York City on the following Monday.  

We were oh-so-innocent…

We all were. 

I just read a fashion feature in the New York Times magazine, “Sweatpants Forever,” that cites March 12 as the day when panic about coronavirus took hold. 

Honestly, we never panicked. Not that day, especially. However, there was a creeping, rising recognition that this was a real thing that would take its toll and would need to be confronted.  

As the next two days unfolded, we had to address Mother’s upcoming trip.  My 95-year old Mother Virgina was scheduled to travel to meet her sister from Florida at a mutual friend’s in South Carolina. There was much abuzz about her pending trip among my siblings. Up until that Sunday, I held fast to the notion that she is healthy; life’s full of risk (and I’m of the opinion that grown children too often try to manage aging parents from a safety-only standpoint robbing life of its inherent exposure to liability…).  I also opined that she’d miss some adventure. But then Sunday turned into Monday. And by then it was all too obvious. 

Coronavirus was reality. Bill and I felt a civic duty and a personal responsibility to do what our governors were asking/ordering. We simply could not do otherwise. It would risk Mother’s well being. We couldn’t take chances. It was sheltering in place for all of us. Mother stayed in - seeing no one but me and Bill.  We suited up with gloves and masks when we visited, initially wiping bags, door knobs, and more. It was a challenge in terms of getting groceries. Bill was the knight in shining armour/warrior who braved the crazy world of the food store for us and Mother. I went once with him in the early days, and got cursed at in high hyena screams about wearing a mask, from a woman, no less!  I asked the manager’s office to please set some ground rules for the customers, in light of the fact that courtesy seemed to have gone the way of embroidered denim. (I’m not saying it was me, wink/wink, but now there are markings on the floor for safe distancing, an In and Out door, and no one allowed in without a face mask.) Ahhhh… some decency. Order. 

Truth be told, we live in a kind of paradise, so the stay-at-home life was not onerous. 

We have our gardens to tend to and enjoy.  We have the usual care of a home; tasks that in the past we just never had the time to address.  I had my garden clients; it was spring, after all. So there was the seasonal horticultural spring clean up; new plantings.  In addition, with more folks staying at home, there was a greater need for our services for ever more clients. 

That said, I did very much miss - and still do - the breadth of culture and art I so enjoy in town… Along with all the energy of our pulsing streetscapes, restaurants, and greenmarkets…

It felt lonely and isolating to be missing all that inspired maelstrom of talent and exchange of ideas.


Just two weeks into the sheltering in place, I had the creative idea to host a virtual Covid Cocktail Party every Saturday at 5 pm -- the universal start of Happy Hour. 

On social media, I queried friends and family as to which platform they preferred: Instagram or Facebook Live. 

The survey said, Facebook Live.

So away we went. The first Covid Cocktail party was March 28th and it was really done on the fly. Very impromptu. I can’t believe I even wore the same Calvin Klein dress two weeks in a row! Those first weeks, I was usually racing back from helping at Mother’s, not really planning more than making a drink and reading a bit from my Art of the Garnish book and sharing a few stories, observations, and thanking our first responders. I looked a bit rangy.  One of my girlfriends left a Comment afterwards, “Nice but could use some rehearsal. Ha!”   I didn’t inculcate the advice until the third episode in the series.  But in the beginning, it was fun. Authentic. And sincere. 

This is all that I wrote as the first invite:Cheers to my first “Covid Cocktail Party.” We all need a little distraction, community & stories. Cheers to us. I’m gonna shake up a Duchess Martini ~ from my Art of the Garnish book.

I figured it only natural that I should start with my signature cocktail: The Duchess Martini. 

Here’s the Duchess martini recipe as seen in the book. 


There was good feedback.  A good audience size.  Plenty of viewers and friends and family showed up!  50 that first time. I thought that was affirmation. 

Over time we had tech issues, sound quality (one Covid Cocktail party had to be deleted entirely post event) but we overcame. I got a microphone.  The invitations got better - showcasing the drinks I was going to make.  I went from one drink per Happy Hour to two. 

The audience grew from 50 to just shy of 5,000 - on the Facebook Live Saturday Art of the Garnish Cocktail parties alone. 

I began to create the floral fantasy for the shows, going out every Saturday in my pink Wellies to see what was blooming and then arrange the blossoms on the barscape and pick a few petals for the garnish. Extolling the luxury of “drinking with the seasons.”  

Plus, I figured it was a great way to showcase the Art of the Garnish book. Of course we had to cancel the book parties and readings that had been scheduled; but the flip side (always looking for the silver lining) is that I surmised more folks would want to create a delicious, glamorous cocktail party --at home -- using the recipes from my book.  I read that liquor sales increased by more than 30% in the first month of coronavirus. Gave a whole new meaning to Happy Hour! 

This is what I posted on Instagram following the first Live event:Things I’m doing during corona crisis: “hosted” my 1st #covidcocktailhour party - you can view on Garden_Glamour FB page (link in bio); #puzzles I got for Mother - we love it - trending 🙌 & @mobituary @cbssundaymorning feature confirmed that. Thank you. @billl2720 cooking up the best #homegrown healthy #food Last nite: Lemon, chicken with capers. Be well. Be safe. Enjoy the #artofthegarnish #cocktail party. #garnish #cocktailsofinstagram #drinks #martini @vermouthdolin @itsnotjustcocktails @livvodka

It’s like a time capsule… 

I found this admittedly dim photo of me with my Duchess Martini that I came across while looking for the Duchess Martini recipe from the book. Nevertheless, I wanted to share it.  Dark becomes me! Ha. Plus, it was from a happy time: dinner with friends - can you remember that?! We were dining at the world-class and ground-breaking restaurant wd~50 that molecular gastronomy chef Wylie Dufresne owned. I also reviewed the restaurant for my Examiner Food and Drink column. Remember restaurant reviews?  Chef Wylie now owns Du’s Donuts. Delicious. Over the years I’d see chef Wylie with frequency at various industry events where he was the celebrity chef. Miss that kind of magical encournter. 

Week two of the Covid Cocktail Party.  

Everything was still simple.  

I see I did a quick Facebook or Instagram invite:

Tonight at 5 ET/Gotham time - will be my second #CovidCocktailParty Celebrating the #ArtoftheGarnish & #cocktailculture See you at #HappyHour on Facebook Live 🍸✨🍹🥃

No photo description available.

Image may contain: food

Ha!  Again, no rehearsal. Just went with it. 

I made the creamy, minty, chocolaty Verdant Green Jangala.  It was a remix of the favorite, Grasshopper - with a different twist.  Here’s the page from the Art of the Garnish book.

What didn’t make it into the book was the background to the drink and the barscape composition that I can share with you here:

Verdant Green Jangala 

A remix on a jungle-green Grasshopper that’s refreshingly minty,  and as bewitching and beguiling as nature’s world of plants. Oh, and Jangala is Sanskrit for jungle. A nod to the green of the drink and its link to the world of plants. 


1 jigger green creme de menthe 

1 jigger white creme de cocoa or white chocolate syrup - homemade is best

1 jigger milk (or cream, or cream of coconut)

3-5 shakes of Fee Brothers chocolate bitters 


Mix all in shaker - with ice

Pour into ornamental stemmed cordial, liqueur or sherry glasses, straight up.  


Key lime basket brimming with mango pieces.  

Key Limes are tiny (1-2 inches); the size allows the basket to perch on the glass rim with a cut on the bottom.  Or place a toothpick in the underside of the basket and perch a la a beach umbrella so that the basket rests on the rim with support.  To create the garnish, use a paring knife to cut out first one side, then the other, leaving the middle strip as a “handle”  You can scallop or cut notches on the edges of the “basket” if you choose.  Use a serrated melon baller to hollow out the key lime pulp. Cut up pieces of colorful, soft tropical fruit -- mango or papaya -- and fill the basket.  You can also fill a dollop of red pomegranate seeds.   

Cocktail Composition

Arrange plants -  think herbals, spice plants, and small fruit “trees” as an homage to this nature setting. Potted rosemary, lime, or any kind of mint plant - there’s apple mint, pineapple mint, and more!  Continue the green theme with lime-green coasters, cocktail napkins and green snacks.  I paired the chocolate green Pocky sticks in a glass for easy snacking - plus there’s a matching chocolate taste.  Animal crackers add to the whimsical jungle theme. 

For added jungle ambiance, lay out the smart technology tuned to nature videos.  Here I used two phones and an IPad, each with its own nature show.  The jungle sounds of birds singing, cascading waterfalls, and jungle cats (peering at the animal cracker still life!) is a cocktail party conversation starter and a unique, personalized cocktail composition component that can be readily adapted to any number of party themes. Engage your guests - ask them to provide a favorite video and add to the composition.  

The smart technology adds to an Oscar party with vintage films playing out, or athletic events with YouTube heroes, or opera stars performing for a cocktail themed Madame Butterfly party…

Video Here: 

All the links to the Live Facebook Videos are available at Garden_Glamour.  Please visit and subscribe.

I was - and am - deeply indebted to my family and friends for the support of the Art of the Garnish Covid Cocktail Series. And your patience!  The early events were simple. An experiment. Raw. But sincere. And fun.  Hey, as I wrote then, “It’s my first pandemic. Be kind!” 

I’ll share the thinking behind the next series of Art of the Garnish covid cocktail parties - putting into context the times we lived through.  Mercifully. I’ll also share the recipes and the seasonal garden-to-glass garnishes.  

Don’t forget, all spirits and liquors come from plants.

And remember, the best ingredient is love.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Summer at Rockefeller Center® Offers Free Public Art, New Outdoor Dining Experiences, & the Romance of Gotham Gardens~Styled for the Corona Era

Rockefeller Center Art & Dining Redesigned for Social Distancing

I was delighted to discover some happy news from the folks at Rockefeller Center and am thrilled to share the good news with you. Lord knows we need more good news…
This summer, Rockefeller Center is presenting a number of exclusive outdoor dining, art, and retail experiences, as well as newly added seating throughout Rockefeller Plaza. Corresponding to New York City’s phased reopening, all of Rockefeller Center’s summer activations are outdoors and do not require tickets, ensuring New Yorkers can enjoy festive seasonal offerings while maintaining social distancing guidelines.

As a garden designer and writer who is equally fascinated by garden history, I like to share nuggets of garden history that folks may not be aware of. In the case of Rockefeller Center, did you know that the land now occupied by Rockefeller Center was once the location of the Elgin Botanic Garden, the first botanical garden in New York State and one of the earliest in the United States? Well, it is. The garden was established by Dr. David Hosack in 1801 and is often referred to as a forerunner of The New York Botanical Garden. (At one time, I was asked to interview at Rockefeller Center to head up the communications strategy for what was then the effort to create an art-focused branding outreach. Story for another time! But I did my research.) So I hope you can see, as a garden lover, and Gotham citizen, I naturally have a love of this special NYC space.

“Rockefeller Center is known for its beloved public spaces, especially its plazas and gardens, and we are thrilled to make them available this summer to our tenants and to New Yorkers in new and unexpected ways. Even while adapting to these changing times in our City, Rockefeller Center can continue to be a favorite destination for culture, commerce, and community,” said EB Kelly, Tishman Speyer Managing Director who oversees Rockefeller Center. “Along with our incredible partners, we have created a summer program consisting of multiple public art installations, pop-up food and retail options, and of course those special ‘surprise and delight’ moments that can only occur at Rockefeller Center. Where else could you enjoy a delicious bite under the watchful eye of a masked Prometheus?”

In the era of corona, what could be better than masking up to look at the golden masked icon of Rockefeller Center?!

Public Art
Continuing its tradition of displaying free, public art, Rockefeller Center is presenting three major installations this summer:

The Flag Project
The Flag Project is a public art initiative that gave New Yorkers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to design the iconic flags that will be flown from all 193 flagpoles surrounding the Rink at Rockefeller Center. The public was invited to submit their own artworks celebrating New York City – its diverse culture, vibrant energy, strength, and resiliency. The winning submissions have been produced as 8-foot by 5-foot flags and will be flown together as a temporary exhibition.

In addition to the general public, a handful of artists and notable New Yorkers will design flags as part of the temporary exhibition. Participating artists include Jeff Koons, Marina Abramović , Christian Siriano, Sarah Sze, Steve Powers, KAWS, Laurie Anderson, Hank Willis Thomas, Carmen Herrera, Jenny Holzer, Shantell Martin, Sanford Biggers, and Faith Ringgold.

The Flag Project will be on display from August 1-16, 2020.

Featured Flag Project Artist ~ Jordan Grace Robinson is in Good Company:
Jordan Grace Robinson, artist, textile designer, and poetry author who hails from Red Bank in the Garden State, is a very special emerging artist who will also be featured in the Flag Project. 

I have been enchanted and perhaps a bit bewitched by Jordan ever since a chance meeting a few years ago. What happened was this: NJ Monthly Magazine was scheduled to do the photo shoot for a feature about my gardens, hostess style, and my soon-to-be-released book, Art of the Garnish. With the photo session date looming for the next day and I still hadn’t received my designer dresses (one preferred and one for a back up!), I scooted to the local Ann Taylor to find something. Anything. And there was my fashion goddess guide, Jordan, confident and composed, who had me magazine worthy in no time. I knew this woman was going places. And boy has she journeyed to artful success! With fine art, fashion design, poetry - all wreathed in kindness, goodness, and mindful talent.

So it was not altogether a surprise when I learned Jordan’s flag art was selected to be displayed in this illustrious public art display.

When I received the news release from Rockefeller Center, I sprang into action, asking if Jordan would honor me and Garden Glamour readers with a preview of her award-winning art flag that premieres today as part of the Flag Project exhibition. This is a close-up of Jordan’s award-winning submission:
Photo of award-winning Flag aka "Like Flowers We'll Bloom Again" courtesy of Jordan 
Jordan created both the abstract painting and the floral illustration intentionally for the contest.

Here are the two distinct and arresting art pieces that she rendered in paint markers and acrylic:
Jordan's whimsical signature floral bouquet, Photo courtesy of Jordan  
The Impasto paint technique depict the energy of NYC: Photo courtesy of Jordan 
The story art behind the visual art is equally compelling. In her words (to borrow a phrase from the New York Times) Jordan shares the way a true artist thinks deeply about every element of the art; she tells us about her artful, mindful evolution from inspiration to concept to winning art.

My Winning Design Submission's Design Process:
My art varies from abstract to a playful illustration style so I wanted to depict a blend of the two to fully represent who I am as an artist and depict my love for NYC. The abstract portion of the design is a scanned image of a 12” x 12” acrylic painting I created. The colors I chose are inspired by the rich tapestry of colors found throughout the city. The almost frenzied brushstrokes and elements of Impasto techniques were intentional. I wanted to depict the hustle and bustle in the city that never sleeps. The long portion of greenery was to represent the city's parks.

The whimsical floral bouquet illustration is a scanned image of one of my signature floral illustrations created with paint markers. I wanted to feature flowers in a vase to represent how, "we're all this together". In Covid-19 times and beyond. I love to have conversations with people about their perception(s) of art so in my work I love to have an element of varied symbolism.

Someone may see the drooping flowers in the vase as literal flowers waiting to grow stronger, while someone else may see them as symbols for us humans dealing with struggles and wanting to "pick their heads up", and may view the two flowers standing upright as pillars of regrowth. To share my perception, I like to view them as dancing and flourishing in sunlight! Trying to find joy in dark times.

Jordan added, “To quote my written submission in correspondence with my design entry, “I reminisced about memories from my childhood years living in Hanover Square and Christmas Eves when visiting family in Brooklyn Heights ( always bringing them a dozen cookies from Court Pastry Shop) YUM!! I was also inspired by the city's industrial landscape, the hustle and bustle of people walking around the city, and natural greenery and florals found throughout NYC. From floral stands to Central Park. The deep hue of brownstones was my inspiration for the color of the "NYC" type. The "N" structure was to pay homage to The Twin Towers. The flowers symbolize how NYC will always thrive and come back stronger each year-- to bloom even more vibrant than the year before! "

Jordan noted, “If I was able to give my flag a name, it would be, "Like Flowers, We'll Bloom Again." It would share the name of my poetry book I wrote at the beginning of the covid pandemic.”

I love the story behind the art. Jordan’s detail is so moving and emotional - honoring the people we lost in the Twin Towers and celebrating what those iconic buildings meant to us citizens of Gotham; to our skyline; our parks and gardens. To our world-class energy. (As I tell my friends, we’ll get our NYC mojo back very soon…) And of course, Jordan’s story includes family memories of food and special holidays.

Applause, Applause, Jordan!

When Jordan’s poetry books were first published, I noted on my weekly Art of the Garnish, Garden_Glamour Facebook Live cocktail party events and of course, ordered my own copies from Amazon. You can purchase from Jordan’s artiste website (see above link in her name).
The artist, Jordan Grace Robinson. Photo Courtesy of Jordan 
Back to Rockefeller Center and the other myriad art installations there now.

Art in Focus
Rockefeller Center and Art Production Fund are presenting a site-specific public art presentation by Brooklyn-based ceramics artist Ryan Flores as part of their Art in Focus partnership. Art in Focus displays artwork in prominent and unexpected, public outdoor locations throughout the Rockefeller Center campus.

Flores’ presentation, “Low Lifes: An Upside Down Love Letter,” continues Flores’ exploration of material seduction and its connection to the viewer through the use of ceramic objects. The show takes on a process that is evident in both art history and our contemporary consumer culture creating an excess or grandiosity around everyday objects.

“Low Lifes: An Upside Down Love Letter” is currently on display at Rockefeller Center.

Frieze Sculpture at Rockefeller Center
Frieze Sculpture at Rockefeller Center returns for its second iteration as a special exhibition of site-specific works by renowned international artists. Usually held in the spring as part of the wider programming of Frieze New York, Frieze Sculpture at Rockefeller Center was postponed and readapted this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Presented in partnership with Tishman Speyer, the major public art initiative places significant sculptural works by leading artists in open, public locations throughout Rockefeller Plaza.

Curated by Brett Littman, the second edition is inspired by the site’s and the city’s natural materials of earth, rock, and plants, and by the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the original date when Frieze Sculpture at Rockefeller Center was scheduled to debut. Artists Ghada Amer, Beatriz Cortez, Andy Goldsworthy, Lena Henke, Camille Henrot and Thaddeus Mosley have responded to that inspiration, with Amer, Cortez, Goldsworthy, Henke, and Mosley creating major new site-specific works.

Frieze Sculpture at Rockefeller Center will be on display from September 1 – October 2, 2020.

Summer Dining
I have so many fond memories of dining at Rockefeller Center with friends and business associates - it’s so glamorous and quintessential New York. Here's what you can expect this year: 
Summer at The Rink:
Filled with oversized tables and greenery, Summer at The Rink includes new pop-up dining options featuring decadent summer bites, grab-and-go meals, seasonal desserts, and refreshing specialty drinks. Restaurants include:
· Rainbow Room: a selection of gourmet salads, wraps, sandwiches, bowls, desserts, and nonalcoholic beverages (Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. on The Rink).
· Alidoro: a variety of hot and cold sandwiches and salads (Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. on The Rink.)
· Makina Cafe Truck: a sampling of Ethiopian and Eritrean lunch options (Monday-Friday, 11:00 a.m. – 6 :00 p.m. in the North Plaza)
· Other Half: the Brooklyn-based brewery offers a selection of its 100+ beers (Thursday-Saturday, 12:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. on the South Esplanade).

Joining the new additions with outdoor offerings are:
· City Winery: a variety of reds, whites, and rosés, beers from Montauk Brewing Company, and a Mediterranean-inspired menu of charcuterie, cheeses, and burrata (seven days a week, 1:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. in the North Plaza)
· Ben & Jerry’s: a selection of popular ice cream favorites (seven days a week, 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. on The Rink)
· Limani: an assortment of Greek-Mediterranean offerings from the restaurant’s seafood-focused menu (Monday-Saturday, 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., and Sunday, 3:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. in the North Plaza)
· Del Frisco’s Grille: the chophouse offers a selection of steak, seafood, sandwiches, and cocktails from its main menu (seven days a week, 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. in the North Plaza).

Seriously. This is "hats in the air" incredible.  The variety of food and drink at their multiple, iconic outdoor offerings and the safety precautions are to be applauded.  Please do luxuriate in the experience - especially while the weather is good to us. 

The Vend
Rock Center says, "
The Vend, is a novel retail experience in the form of customized vending machines offering solutions for life’s unexpected emergencies through differentiated products from around the world, expands to new locations throughout Rockefeller Center.... The Vend presents an exciting and easy way for customers to access a variety of products quickly, designed to surprise customers with unique versions of everyday products Developed by Tishman Speyer and debuting at Rockefeller Center last year, The Vend features new products such as a selection of masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and wipes, as well as unique food and beverage options carefully curated from different parts of the world, as well as sundries and PPE (masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and wipes)."

And we can all use more of these safety tools when emerging from our corona cocoons. Enjoy the art. Embrace the artists’ works. And our beloved, cultured, New York City. 

Friday, July 24, 2020

Gardentopia: A Garden Design Book Shows How to Create an Outdoor Space Brimming with Joy & Serenity

 Gardentopia: Design Basics for Creating Beautiful Outdoor Spaces by [Jan Johnsen] 
For those who’ve been following me, you’ve “heard” me say often that “good garden design tells a story.” The book, Gardentopia, tells many a good garden story. The garden design guide is brimming with successful designs. Perhaps more poignantly, or perhaps more to the point, is that today, more than ever, we have come to recognize the importance of being in nature, nesting at home in our gardens…

If there is any silver lining to this coronavirus for those lucky and blessed enough to have a yard and property to shelter-in-place at, is that most everyone wants to create a garden retreat; to create their own arcadian hideaway.

But how to go about it is the speed bump.

Jan Johnsen’s book, Gardentopia was released last year and I think it is even more salient now. And I’m not just saying that to assuage my guilt about not writing the book review until now. It’s true I was sent a review copy of the book when it was first published and for no good reason (or for many working reasons!) I am just now sharing the good garden design news found in Gardentopia…

Seriously, the hard cover, large-format book is a tome (283 pages) chock-a-block with colorful photos - some with thumbnail captions that describe the story or detail about the image (not just the usual lusty garden display) - that showcase the plants -- there’s an entire chapter; more than 40 pages devoted to the “Plants and Planting” that Jan characterizes as “everyone’s favorite part of the garden. There are four other chapters showcasing the elements of Jan’s good garden design:

  • Garden Design and Artful Accents ~ this is the garden’s framework, according to Jan

  • Walls, Patios, Walks, and Steps ~ these are the bones of the outdoor space

  • Theme Gardens ~ here’s where creativity and whimsy make a garden special
  • Color in the Garden ~ Jan cites the impact of color and celebrates its potency and how to use it

Be assured that the sheer breadth of Gardentopia’s contents is well, breath-taking. If you never purchased another garden design book, you’d be just fine. This book is that comprehensive.

While It’s often said the devil's in the details; the original phrase was "God is in the details,” meaning that you needed to ensure that everything you did was done truthfully. Here, Jan’s masterful garden stories are abundant in their authenticity because they are based on her true to life experience and client examples and deliver on the finer elements without getting ahem, “into the weeds” or losing focus. Like her garden design guidelines or principles she advocates, it’s all about the balance...

As you know, I too, am a professional garden designer as well as a writer and author. I review many garden and plant-related books and in the days BC (before corona), I attended a plethora of garden design and horticulture lectures in New York City: most of them produced by the New York Botanical Garden and Metrohort. This is my wheelhouse to say the least. So trust me when I say what sets Jan’s book apart especially, is the way she talks to us in the book. This is no crunchy, esoteric guide for the garden elite. Although they too will delight in the sage advice found on every page of Gardentopia. While Jan quotes the venerable landscape designers including Isamu Noguchi, Frederick Law Olmstead, Geoffrey Jellico, among others, she leaves no doubt she is talking to us - the garden and flower lover. The homeowner. The novitiate.

Reading the book feels like you’re sharing a cup of tea or a glass of wine with Jan, while talking about your garden dreams and goals and she is gently, expertly, guiding you.

Jan surely knows her way around gardens and writing. If you are not familiar already with her and her garden design pedigree, she is “one of the most popular writers on GardenDesign.com” according to its publisher, Jim Peterson. Jan has successfully managed her own Westchester, New York based firm, Johnsen Landscape & Pool for nearly 35 years. Her work has been featured in numerous publications including This Old House and Horticulture Magazine. She was awarded the 2019 Award of Distinction by the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD).

Gardentopia is published by Countryman Press and joins her other books, Heaven is a Garden (St Lynn's Press, 2014) and The Spirit of Stone (St Lynn's Press, 2017).

I know Jan from my days working at NYBG as well as the rather intimate clan of garden and horticulture enthusiasts based in Gotham. Jan is kind. She is generous. And those traits, along with her esteemed talent, makes this the perfect book to guide you garden designs. Even if your garden is more aspirational you will nonetheless enjoy curling up with Gardentopia

Along with all the tips - and there are nearly 140 of them - Jan’s Gardentopia, she reveals what the garden “power spot” is; the principle of the three depths; the utilization of the ancient Japanese design technique of miegakure or “hide and seek” which embraces the design of “partially screening a view or section of a garden to create the illusion of distance,” and why that’s important to good garden design - (in contrast to a rather banal exterior looks borrowed from interior design - that of the open space where all is revealed or seen in one expansive view. In good garden design, we much prefer the mystery and romance of leading you through the garden that enhances the connection to nature and it’s mysteries.

Moreover, Gardentopia provides practical, hands-on, experienced advice on how to achieve effects and results.

Honestly, this is a book to be experienced. It somewhat challenges a neat review. You, like me, will, return to it again and again. For inspiration. For instruction and guidance. For dreaming…

Thank you, Jan.

(All photos courtesy of Gardentopia/The Countryman Press)

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

KinKa Grand Opening: Art, Food, & Plants Offer Purity, Simplicity & Sensory Delights to Enrich Your Life


Since I first heard this word a few months ago, I can’t stop saying it. KinKa. KinKa. KinKa. It’s just so adorably cute. And melodic. And catchy.

And yet, at the same time, it could be a kind of plant mantra now that I ponder it; a kind of sacred utterance with magical or mystical powers…

In fact, KinKa is a new kind of shop dedicated to Art, Food, and Plants.

According to KinKa’s co-owners EunYoung and Tom Sebazco, KinKa means:禁花, forbidden flower! See what I mean about the magical and mystical? I learned from EunYoung, who is also a student who practices the formal Japanese Tea Ceremony, “that there are flowers which are considered unsuitable to use during the Japanese Tea Ceremony because they may be out of season, too bold or pungent and the like.” The formal Tea ceremony advocates a depth of the imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It goes without saying that both she and her husband Tom utterly respect the exquisite philosophy behind the cultural art of the Japanese tea ceremony. They will bring this inspired depth of imperfection ~ or a kind of wabi-sabi that accepts transience - to KinKa.

The positive aesthetic this offers is to make the most of life. To embrace the purity and simplicity and the sensory delights found in our own, individual worlds. At KinKa you’ll be able to practice the art of appreciating the simple things that enrich our lives while using them to engage our senses.

This is surely to be a new kind of store.
Artful items at KinKa grace the shelves like a still life
The KinKa retail operation - online and now in the New York CIty Chelsea neighborhood - will be a curated shopping and learning experience, offering artful, unique, items that are hand-crafted in the tradition of wabi: “the elegant beauty of humble simplicity.”

KinKa’’s grand opening is Tuesday, July 7.

How did KinKa come to be, I wanted to know. It’s a good story all by itself.

The “Roots” of KinKa:
EunYoung's journey to KinKa blossomed, shall I say (wink), as part of the Michelin award-winning restaurant KOSAKA's art program she launched in 2016; heightening her awareness of the connections of art, food & plants. This fusion of her three passions ignited the concept for KinKa.

EunYoung has practiced and worked as a landscape architect and designer and a professional horticulturist for over 25 years. Full disclosure: I’ve had the ultimate honor of working alongside EunYoung many times in client’s gardens; seeing her transfer her horticultural skills to the jardinieres at the world-class Ecuadorian resort, Hacienda Cusin, teaching them to grow microgreens;
EunYoung teaching the gardeners to grow micro greens for Cusin's menu Photo: Leeann 

Harvesting in the edible garden there for our special homegrown dinner menu: 
Photo: Leeann 
Homegrown edibles for Cusin's chefs. The plant & food & art connection .... Photo: Leeann 

EunYoung contributed her kokedama plant art to a Art in Nature gallery show I curated,
EunYoung's kokodama plant art. Photo: Leeann 
she selected us to host her first Japanese tea ceremony for guests at our country house:
With Cherry Blossoms framing the tea ceremony... Photo: Leeann 

and I’ve long admired her food and drink art from the time I first met her as a star of the New York Botanical Garden’s School of Professional Horticulture.

Since then, she has enjoyed beautifying gardens and green spaces and sharing the knowledge with the local and the broader horticultural community.

EunYoung created the first rice paddy in New York City in 2010. This pioneering achievement earned her and her groundbreaking efforts much positive news coverage for her leadership and teaching, as part of the children’s garden programs.

Subsequently, she then expanded awareness of that singular ingredient ~ rice ~ and began promoting the use of rice as an unlimited resource from food to art & lifestyle through her LiveRice.com platform. Further, she studies pottery and creates timeless treasures of enduring beauty -- some made with rice!

I cherish my hand-made pottery from EunYoung - made with love and respect for the natural ingredients…

I’ve long admired her floral designs; often I’d stop dead in my tracks in front of the Kosaka 12th Street restaurant’s display windows, captivated by the elegant beauty; transfixed. When I snap out of my reverie, my happiness increases as I remind myself, I know the artist who created this heart-stopping beauty.
Kosaka plant art Photo: Leeann 
Now, KinKa offers an ambition for her to share these vast experiences and continue her journey to share and celebrate plants, food, and art.

And to extend her wisdom to teach about the integrity of nature, respect for the ingredients, and the care to create handicrafts that stimulate all our senses.

She said she is thrilled to offer a space: KinKa.

This will be a welcoming place where the local community can dialog, learn, and buy.
KinKa co-owner & artist, EunYoung
EunYoung has run the Kosaka art program as a curator for the last five years and has introduced many artists locally and internationally. She was looking for an outlet to add to this dynamic extension of artists. When Kosaka announced its second location in Chelsea; when the owner approached she and Tom with the desire to extend the art program to their new location: it was a match made in heaven.

Speaking of matches, her husband of 14 years, Tom Sebazco, will spearhead the KinKa operation with an eye not only on the business elements but the artful aspects, too. Tom is an artist, optimistic entrepreneur, and visionary. Combining his award-winning fine-art talent as a painter and sculptor, Tom has propelled his in-law’s invention, the Eni Puzzle, into an international success by incorporating an interactive design that uses the fundamental principles of mathematics to teach and nurture creativity as a learned skill. As CEO, Tom, has leveraged both his Pratt Institute and Goldman Sachs 10KSB experience to brand Eni Puzzle cylindrical puzzle product line as the first lifestyle brain workout that is fun and addictively challenging.

With his business DNA bona fides focused on branding and ergonomic design, Tom aims to bring unique items into the KinKa collection, to accent the in-store experiences along with curating attractive, smart objects that will enhance a lifestyle where increasingly home and “office” are the same. He is excited to build an artistic bridge between the local/Gotham plant, art, and food community and beyond - with KinKa.

EunYoung's floral, botanical and artful cultural handicraft skills and Tom's artistic acumen (and terrific compositions, I must say), are key assets that will surely make KinKa a unique place brimming with revelation and adventure. Moreover, the couple brings a soulful spirit to their endeavours so that their customers are assured of finding thoughtful pursuits and showpiece design discoveries.
KinKa co-owners: EunYoung & Tom Sebazco
The Artists
Because EunYoung has participated in ceramics and the Japanese tea ceremony and garden art for over 20 years, she has been able to better cultivate a dedication to nurturing a network of burgeoning artisans; empowering these small design makers and entrepreneurs to advance access to their crafts, so that enthusiasts can discover and buy their work. She’s a kind of focused, one-woman Etsy! Through her inspired art communities, she said she is so proud to have discovered many new artists - primarily ceramic but textile artists too; offering these craftspeople a platform or showcase for their work.

Presently, KinKa’s aim is to feature a “new” artist every three months as a solo showcase with that specific resident artist. Going forward, there will probably be multiple makers’ crafts inspiring customers at KinKa at the same time. I love this. It is clearly an artful allure to keep returning to KinKa to see what’s new, what collaboration the shop has delighted in sharing with its customers.

Shino Takeda is the first, featured artist at KinKa’s grand opening. EunYoung met her at Togei Studio where they shared the studio. Shino’s natural hand-building shape and unique color patterns stood out from all the others. No wonder. Her work has been showcased in many galleries in New York and Japan. EunYoung shared how “When I planted a small houseplant in her cup, I noticed a chemistry between her ceramics and plants. Both are shining energy to each other.” How beautifully magical is this?!

She added, “We are very lucky to exhibit Shino’s magnificent two large ceramic works and small planters and pots produced specifically for KinKa as exclusives.”

Shino Takeda is a ceramic artist living and working in Brooklyn. Influenced by her upbringing in Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, all of her works are unique to represent a personal diary to reflect her inner reaction to the change of seasons, both emotional and physical. All work is handmade one of a kind representational passage of a particular moment in time.


And further, EunYoung explained, “We will also be showcasing other artists and have the work from local and international ceramic artists at the opening. We will continue to feature newly-discovered artists, and exhibit their artisanal crafts throughout the store on an ongoing basis.”

KinKa will be open for retail business, 7 days 12pm - 9pm (Mon-Sun)

Prices will run from the very affordable to signature item, in accordance with the art’s value. Plants, potting soil, and those incredible vases and containers.

More specifically, there is a range from $10 items all the way up to the $1000s. According to Tom and EunYoung, the price scale is not the focus, rather the uniqueness of discovery and beauty the piece presents that determines if it will become part of the KinKa collection.

“We are holding the idea that we will bring the best price forward and offer quality over quantity. We are a relatively small store and need to thrive in Manhattan,” explained EunYoung, “So our goal is not about the price, rather it is about the uniqueness of hand-made, often one-of-a-kind, smart design.

Workshops and Classes
In addition to the plants and objets d’art, KinKa is dedicated to building a bridge to connect and share through various cultural venues. KinKa will offer botanical programs year-round that mark the seasons and holidays as well as the joy of everyday style; scheduling workshops that feature a myriad of home decor and entertaining at home designs, including tablescaping and table styling, floral decor, and outdoor garden design accessories. just how to pot-up .

Also KinKa will host workshops/classes with special florists, artists, chefs, and other expert visionaries.

Initially, there will be only private classes offered. You’ll be able to buy a live or in some cases a faux plant, learn how to pot it up in one of the one-on-one lessons they offer to KinKa customers.

Soon, there will be a calendar posted at the KinKa website. Understandably, at this time they are still navigating the logistics of how and what type of events will be permitted and accepted during the COVID19 pandemic that accommodates safety and social distancing guidelines.

To avoid confusion, they are compiling an extensive list to notify interested fans and customers of upcoming events. You can go ahead and sign on with your email address now.

Tom described their customers as “Someone looking to discover new and unique items and who has a passion for being a ‘plant sitter.’” He continued, “Rather than the rather soulless practice of clicking items from a picture on a website, we are bringing items to accent the potted plants that are best viewed live! It’s key to the artful, sensual experience,” he added. Tom explained, “We will, of course, eventually have the ability to shop and ship from our KinKa website with an eCommerce platform. At this time, we are inviting everyone to stop in for a visit and discover our special, curated collection in our store.”

The timing is ideal, I think, as folks who’ve been sheltering in place are looking for an easily accessible, artul experience outside of their apartments and homes. Plus, taking home a gorgeous plant to nurture is hort therapy at its finest. Not to mention the beauty a striking plant and container art composition will do to brighten a home’s decor and lift your mood.

The couple acknowledged that while their competition, at first blush, is smaller plant stores, they distinguish KinKa in terms of having other items that feature local, ceramic, floral, and textile talents. EunYoung’s track record and her eye for curating and working with an ever-changing pedigree of domestic artisans is unparalleled. In addition, because they are co-opting their space with a Michelin Star-rated restaurant, EunYoung and Tom explained, “We will also possess that dynamic energy from the culinary excellence offered by the restaurant connecting us. Because we aspire to accent lifestyle through art, food & plants, we are confident that we will be able to provide a unique shopping experience for those passing through to dine and a unique dining experience for those looking to shop.”

Works for me! This combination of creating a cultural direction, discovering new artists, hands-on personal service (hello! And thank you!) along with the plants, food, and workshops breeds an atmosphere that is decidedly more entertaining and in-the-moment. Mindful.

I’m ready to KinKa. Are you?

My new KinKa bag Photo: Leeann

For its Grand Opening, KinKa is offering a few items to give to their loyal VIP guests who have supported them over the years, helping them to build their dream… They will also offer “new” VIP guests gifts on a first come, first served basis. So get to KinKa early. Oh, did I mention that they are offering curbside pickup too? Easy. And this will coordinate just swell when the restaurant opens so that you can do take-out and plant pick-up at the same time. They thought of everything...

55 W 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
Instagram: KinKa_nyc

* All photos not attributed are courtesy of KinKa