Martha's Flowers A practical guide to growing, gathering, and enjoying

Martha Stewart

Book - 2018

"Martha Stewart's lifelong love of flowers began at a young age, as she dug in and planted alongside her father in their family garden, growing healthy, beautiful blooms, every year. The indispensable lessons she learned then--and those she has since picked up from master gardeners--form the best practices she applies to her voluminous flower gardens today. For the first time, she compiles the wisdom of a lifetime spent gardening into a practical yet inspired book. Learn how and when to plant, nurture, and at the perfect time, cut from your garden. With lush blooms in hand, discover how to build stunning arrangements."--

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New York : Clarkson Potter Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group [2018]
Main Author
Martha Stewart (author)
Other Authors
Kevin Sharkey (author)
First edition
Item Description
Includes index.
Physical Description
287 pages : color illustrations ; 29 cm
  • Signs of spring. Daffodil ; Tulip ; Rhododendron & azalea ; Lilac ; Allium ; Peony
  • Summer's bounty. Rose ; Poppy ; Clematis ; Delphinium ; Hydrangea ; Lily
  • Early autumn. Sunflower & Rudbeckia ; Dahlia
  • Arranging flowers.
Review by New York Times Review

Soon after i moved to Manhattan in the late 1970s, an old friend taught me to roller-skate. It feels like a lifetime ago now. We would go dancing at clubs - those disco nights - and then, as a new day dawned, lace up our boots and roll into Central Park. We had the place to ourselves, though getting any speed was tricky since the roads were pocked and potted. On all sides, the lawns were filthy and tattered. But as I looped through it, I fell in love with Central Park. Luckily, at about the same time another woman felt the same way. SAVING CENTRAL PARK: A History and a Memoir (Knopf, $30) is Elizabeth Barlow Rogers's inspiring story of how, in the face of considerable resistance, she created a partnership to privately augment the funding and management of the park. Rogers attended the Yale School of Architecture's city planning program while her husband was at law school. By the time they moved to New York, she had a daughter. But Rogers remembers how deeply resonant were the words she read in Betty Friedan's 1963 volume, "The Feminine Mystique": "I want something more than my husband and my children and my home." Rogers's inadvertent municipal revolution proceeded in quiet stages. She joined a group called the Central Park Task Force and in 1976 created what turned out to be a clever marketing campaign with a magazine article called "32 Ways Your Time and Money Can Rescue Central Park." In one week, she raised $25,000, along with many volunteers. This led to her formation of the Central Park Conservancy, which, with a handshake from Mayor Koch, eventually became an auxiliary of the city government. New Yorkers may not appreciate how fragile a hold this public space has always had. Rogers swiftly reprises its history, beginning with the landscape firm of Olmsted and Vaux turning "a ragged 843-acre wasteland" into an area for scenic recreation. By 1872,10 million visitors had ridden carriages along the drives, strolled the Mall, hiked the Ramble and boated and skated on the park's lakes and ponds. "Think, then, of the Olmstedian experience of Central Park as one of articulated movement," Rogers writes - exactly as it felt to this skater. Boss Tweed inflicted the first era of depredation on the romantic grounds, destroying thousands of trees as a prelude to creating grandiose public works. As time passed, the park's commissioners saw increasing opportunities for development. By the early 1900s, as sheep were grazing on Sheep Meadow, the park was becoming a recreational arena, dotted with playing fields and tennis courts. But the person who had the greatest impact was Robert Moses. On becoming parks commissioner in 1934, he ordered the paving of paths with asphalt, lined the shores of ponds and lakes with riprap embankments, reordered portions of the drives to accommodate cars and parking lots, built a new zoo and added playgrounds and skating rinks. Moses' iron-fisted rule ended in 1960. After that, the park took a pounding. Rock concerts, be-ins, happenings, antiwar demonstrations, kite-flying contests and circus parades filled the meadows, which became dust bowls. A thriving drug trade took hold. By the time Rogers retired in 1995, the Conservancy had put more than $100 million of private money into the park; today, she says, the figure has grown to $1 billion. All that money went into the refurbishment of hardscapes and the restoration of gardens, as well as planting and pruning. Rogers doesn't address the controversy that eventually attended that fund-raising, as other parks in poorer neighborhoods remained neglected. Slowly but, we hope, surely, that disparity is being addressed. The celebratory CITY GREEN: Public Gardens of New York (Monaceiii, $50), by Jane Garmey, with romantic photographs by Mick Hales, is an evocative accompaniment to Rogers's memoir. Of course, it honors Central Park's gardens, but it pays attention to plenty of other jewels as well, including the masterfully minimalist Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park at the tip of Roosevelt Island, the blowzy Native Plant Garden at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx and Midtown's timelessly elegant and beloved Paley Park. The sculptor Isamu Noguchi's studio and garden in Queens deserves to be counted among America's finest intimate museums. And an authentic classical Chinese garden on Staten Island was a revelation to me; I'm on the next ferry. For some women, the love of a good garden inspires civic engagement. For others, a garden is a deeply personal affair. The English novelist Penelope Lively's memoir, life in the garden (Viking, $25), is really about her decades of green thoughts. As you might expect from a writer of her charms, it's appealingly shambolic and literary. This is a book about the "charisma" of gardens. Now 85, Lively muses about old age, which "creeps up on you and has to be faced down." She has tilled and planted small urban plots and larger country acres, but now her gardening must accommodate her bad back. Thankfully, that doesn't stop her from reaching for the bookshelves. What a pleasure to keep company with the likes of T. S. Eliot, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Willa Cather, Tom Stoppard and the many other writers who stroll through these pages. Like them, Lively has both favorites and vexations. She casts a trenchant eye on the way garden centers dictate our tastes, deplores the "possibly sinister intent" of ivy and avoids the writers, like P. G. Wodehouse, whose garden descriptions she considers "suspect." On the other hand, Lively approves of Virginia Woolf, who noted, after a day of weeding: "This is happiness." Lively muses on "the question of time, order - and perception." To her, the greatest gift a garden gives is "that enriching lift out of the restrictions of now, and today." She is willing to annoy those without green thumbs by flat-out declaring that gardeners, because of their ability to pay close attention to mundane miracles, are "more perceptive" people. I'll raise my trowel to that! Several lifetimes ago - in 1622, to be precise - Cassiano dal Pozzo, one of Italy's most prolific patrons of the arts and sciences, commissioned a set of bird drawings for his Paper Museum. These have now been paired with a catalog of scientific observations by Giovanni Pietro Olina, written during the same period, called the "Uccelliera" ("Aviary"). PASTA FOR NIGHTINGALES: A 17th-Century Handbook of Bird-Care and Folklore (Yale University, $22.50) must be the season's most endearingly eccentric offering. In her graceful introduction, Helen Macdonald, author of "H Is for Hawk," explains that "the role of birds in 17th-century Italy can feel bewildering to us"; they were appreciated not just as "delightful songsters" but as "culinary delicacies, and useful human medicine." In this handsome volume, we learn that an enclosure for the sensitive ortolan must be well plastered to keep out moles and should not afford a view of greenery lest the bird become melancholy. We are told that the eggs and brains of the Italian sparrow are useful for "husbands who are cold and have little vigor." Ant eggs are an effective medicine, should your nightingale languish. And yes: There's a recipe for grains of pasta to feed your captive singer. Avoid giving it salted things, and it will come with "charm and graces to your finger." No amount of pasta will help the crashing songbird popDOMINIQUE ulations today; they need another sort of kind attention. For that matter, the butterflies are suffering too. Thoughts of rescue are on many minds. The North American Butterfly Association offers a lavish guide to remedying their plight in BUTTERFLY GARDENING (Princeton University, paper, $29.95), by Jane Hurwitz. It's helpfully organized by region, and so straightforward and reasonable that there should soon be many more nectar banquets for these important pollinators. Too many of us forget that the caterpillar stage is critical: Using pesticides early in the season means no butterflies later. But you'll be relieved to know that you don't have to do a thing for the glorious-looking Mourning Cloak butterflies: They're drawn to tree sap, rotting fruit and animal dung. While we're celebrating winged beauty, why is it that the first association many of us have with moths is... holes in our sweaters? Moths deserve awe. The reliable Peterson Institute has just produced a field guide to moths of SOUTHEASTERN NORTH AMERICA (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, paper, $29). This region boasts an impressive array of sphinx moths and scoopwings. The list of names alone is thrilling: moss-eaters, ghost moths, fairy moths; flannel and lichen moths and slug moths, oh my! The pleasure of meeting the incandescently blue-green Luna moth awaits you in these pages; could this have been the model for Tinkerbell? Head out with your flashlight and if you get confused, here are some pointers: The antennas of a butterfly are clubbed at the tip; those of a moth are feathery or threadlike. A recipe for sugar bait is provided for their delectation, and yours. Plant the proper trees and shrubs to nurture your local bees, butterflies, moths and birds with help from essential NATIVE TREES AND SHRUBS FOR THE EASTERN UNITED STATES: The Guide to Creating a Sustainable Landscape (Imagine, $35), by Tony Dove, who has managed public gardens on the East Coast for 50 years, and Ginger Woolridge, a Marylandbased garden designer. This is an authoritative catalog, organized by a range of categories: those that have attractive bark or are evergreen, those that have showy flowers or are wind, salt or drought tolerant. Lucky Southerners and Westerners can dive into Jason Dewees's designing with palms (Timber, $50). Dewees, who runs the Palm Broker website out of San Francisco, is a leading authority on these enviably bold, dramatic plants. Informative photographs by Caitlin Atkinson feature them in situ, allowing you to admire the key thatch palms that grace a Florida bromeliad garden and the palmettos within a hedge in Charleston, S.C. Almost half the book is devoted to an inventory of individual species. Eat your heart out, Bostonians; this isn't love for a cold climate. DESERT GARDENS OF STEVE MARTINO (Monacelli, $50), by Caren Yglesias, proves that no one uses palm trees - and other desert plants - more fluently. Part of Martino's trick is setting plants that have few flowers but fabulous shapes against geometric slabs of deeply colored walls. The crimson hues in a Phoenix garden must be as much of a draw for the hummingbirds as the mirrored surface of the water trough. Blue concrete pyramids, magenta poles, yellow awnings and fiberglass panels - these are all elements in Martino's playful, imaginative designs. But although this monograph showcases a mastery of hardscape, specific plants are often left frustratingly unidentified. On the other hand, I can't quibble with gardens that hark back to early-sixth-century Iran - while being entirely modern. A dear friend from New Orleans has just sent me his personal photographic chronicles of the rivers of Scotland and the Scottish glens, along with a reminder that the urge to catalog the world goes back to Homer. Catalogs give an impression of order, which is especially soothing in chaotic times. That must be why I responded so ardently to the BOOK OF SEEDS: A Life-Size Guide to Six Hundred Species From Around the World (University of Chicago, $55), edited by Paul Smith, formerly head of the Millennium Seed Bank at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. This volume is handsome and handy. Learn here about achenes like rhubarb seeds, which are dispersed by the wind. Or samaras, like the seeds of the English elm, found in the middle of two transparent green wings. A floriferous catalog makes the heart sing, and nothing says swoon like a blossom called "Gay Paree." Learn about it and many others in PEONY: The Best Varieties for Your Garden (Timber, $27.95), by David Michener, who oversees the largest public collection of historical herbaceous peonies in North America at the Nichols Arboretum in Michigan, and Carol Adelman, a grower of 484 varieties near Salem, Ore. It's a wonderful reminder of the decades of breeding that peonies have inspired. Creating a spectacularly colorful hybrid between herbaceous and tree peonies was, they tell us, the Holy Grail for more than a century. A Japanese grower named Itoh began hand-pollinating flowers to attempt a cross, with no success until, in 1948, after 2,000 attempts, six seedlings showed vigor. Cruelly, he died before those sprouts flowered. You could write an opera for this diva of flowers. What to do with those masses of peonies - or the armloads of flowers you couldn't resist at the farmer's market? MARTHA'S FLOWERS: A Practical Guide to Growing, Gathering, and Enjoying (Clarkson Potter, $45) has many suggestions. It's the labor of love of Martha Stewart and Kevin Sharkey, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design who went to work at Martha Stewart Living in the mid-1990s. Stewart credits him with being "the cutter and arranger" while she (and her gardeners) are the growers - at her homes in Maine, East Hampton and Westchester County. As you would expect, Sharkey sets the most stylish of standards. Never mind the lilacs and tulips. The vases are breathtaking. Sharkey has a wonderful eye for quirky, gorgeous combinations of color and texture. The bouquets of suggestions, advice and tips offered throughout are especially engaging, as are Stewart's reminiscences about the gardens of her childhood. In another lifetime, if I'm not to be found feeding pasta to nightingales, perhaps I could be chugging through a linden alléé pulling a wagonload of lilacs. Hammer in hand to crush the stems, of course. But whatever lifetime we happen to find ourselves in, let's take to heart the advice of Philip Larkin. In her garden memoir, Penelope Lively reminds us of his marvelous poem about the accidental killing of a hedgehog: "We should be more careful / Of each other, we should be kind / While there is still time." BROWNING, formerly the editor of House & Garden, is the founder and director of Moms Clean Air Force. She works at the Environmental Defense Fund.

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [June 3, 2018]

Introduction AS I WRITE THIS, I AM IN THE PROCESS OF planning my next garden. It will be my seventh garden, and I've been collecting images in my head, tear sheets in folders, and names of varieties of trees, shrubs, plants, and flowers that I think will be appropriate in this new and exciting landscape. And I've tried to imagine if this time will be any different from when I designed and dug (and double dug), then planted my very first, and very modest, garden in front of our tiny, white clapboard single-story cottage in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts.   It was my very own garden, where I was free from my father's beautifully modulated instructor's voice telling me what to do, and how to do it, in his backyard garden. Here, I was relaxed and confident that I could plant a noteworthy, productive garden. At that time, my guidance came from my father, of course, but also from some wonderful books and places that influenced me profoundly: the writings of Vita Sackville-West, Gertrude Jekyll, and Helena Rutherfurd Ely, and the historic gardens that I loved visiting, including Monticello, Mount Vernon, the Mission House in nearby Stockbridge, and Old Sturbridge Village. Using a simple geometric plan, I laid out a front-path garden, which captured the sunlight for most of the day. Recycled bricks, carefully cleaned of all old rubble and cement, were laid in walks of stone dust and edged in more bricks laid on the diagonal. I discovered early on the beauty and efficacy of perennial planting, and most of the flowers there, in that small, pretty garden, were indeed perennials, interspersed with some herbs and very few annuals.   My most vivid memories of that garden were the hours spent tending the beds, singing to my young child, Alexis, making up fairy-tale-like stories about the flowers, reiterating the common as well as Latin names so that they are still ingrained not only in my head but also in hers. I was so proud when she could recite the flower names to my friends, pointing out her favorite campanula, digitalis, or Papaver orientalis.   The second, and the one that has been so instrumental in my subsequent development as a serious gardener, was the two-acre garden I designed and planted in Westport, Connecticut, on a perfect plot of south-facing land, and known as Turkey Hill. What began as two acres grew to four, and then in an orderly fashion to six as neighboring properties became available for purchase. Surrounding at first the 1805 farmhouse, which also played an important part in my entrepreneurial development, these gardens were my true testing ground, my "college education" for growing and experimenting, and my inspiration for putting pen to paper and writing books about subjects I loved. My first gardening book, Martha Stewart's Gardening: Month by Month, appeared in 1991. In that book, I described the challenges and rewards of planting and growing not only flowers but also trees and vegetables and shrubs. In the beginning, I did most of the gardening myself, choosing the plant material, planning the layouts of the beds, placing the young trees in appropriate places, and weeding, fertilizing, watering, and grooming. I found that a half acre was doable, an acre not, and I hired my first two gardeners. They were not trained horticulturists, but they were very hardworking and each had a wonderful affinity for plants and their care. As my vision for the place expanded, they scurried to keep up, sometimes enlisting a brother or cousin to help. During this time, I traveled quite frequently to Europe and Asia, where I visited as many gardens as I could. My husband was a publisher, and he was working on Visions of Paradise, an extraordinary volume about Europe's most beautiful gardens. We traveled to England, France, and Italy to see with our own eyes the gardens so faithfully displayed in the photographs. It was on this trip that I started to understand the true nature of a real gardener, and the true worth of great garden and landscape design. I discovered the most famous landscape architects--in England, the Humphry Reptons, the William Kents, the Capability Browns; and in France, the René de Girardins, the André Le Nôtres, and the André Mollets. I bought books devoted to their works, and read with great interest why this and not that! I was even very influenced by Claude Monet after several visits to Giverny, and my flower garden emulated those gardens in intensity of color and types of flowers.   At Turkey Hill I made plenty of mistakes, but none that could not be remedied. I learned that gardening was enjoyment and sacrifice, that planting required inordinate patience and fortitude, and that instant gratification provided by planting large trees and established plants could be tempered with patience and smaller specimens, ultimately with better results.   While at Turkey Hill I purchased my third garden, Lily Pond, a one-acre parcel of land surrounding a large shingle-style nineteenth-century home on a beautiful tree-lined avenue in the village of East Hampton, Long Island. The climate, tempered by the proximity to the sea and the milder winters, was excellent for the cultivation of roses, and I was determined to grow a large assortment of old-world varieties--shrubs as well as climbers. I began a yearlong search for as many roses as I could find. Fortunately, there existed several excellent growers in the United States and Canada, and I bought about six hundred bushes, the bare roots of which were delivered by post. For twenty-five years those bushes grew to produce very strong and beautiful blooms. The gardens perfumed the surrounding areas during June and July, and I was thrilled with the results. I studied the care and maintenance of roses, consulted great rosarians, and devised my own methods for successfully growing these amazing plants. We often featured those gardens in the pages of Martha Stewart Living. When the roses finally reached maturity, and began to decline from robust shrubs, I dug them all up and moved them to my farm in Katonah, a hamlet of Bedford, New York, hoping that a drastic change in climate and soil conditions might revive them. Happily, I can now report that they are thriving.   For a brief moment in time, I owned about forty-five acres in Greenfield Hill, Fairfield, Connecticut. I truly believed that there I could create my "big" garden, but I quickly realized that the soil, the location, and even the size of the property were not ideal for my biggest effort. I do count Greenfield Hill as one of my gardens, my fourth, but only because I planted some incredible trees there, and actually spent time developing a master plan for the landscape, which was never to be. And I do miss those trees--the gum tree with the flanged bark, the large-leafed Magnolia grandiflora trees, and the grove of mature gingko trees purchased from the New York Botanical Garden.   While looking for that special place, where I could live and commute from, I bought on a whim my "fifth" garden, Skylands in Maine. The house and gardens of this 1925 American treasure were designed by two renowned architects: The house was designed by Duncan Candler, and the gardens were conceived by the great landscape architect Jens Jensen. Upon purchase of this hilltop place--eighty-plus acres, numerous buildings, and more than a mile of road--I became a caretaker of history, and I loved this new job. There was no grass to mow, yet acres of forest and moss to tend, and terraces and balconies of pink granite needing planted pots and statement ornamentation.   Skylands has taught me a great deal about a different kind of gardening. Everything is subtle, subdued. On Mount Desert Island, everything takes its orders from nature. The moss is there, but it needs the year of fallen leaves and pine needles to be carefully blown off for it to burgeon into an emerald ground cover. To keep the forest mighty and populated, trees need pruning to allow sunlight and air to help them grow strong and shapely. Gardens need to be placed where there is sunlight, and the soil must be amended with compost, seaweed, and nutrients. The gardener has to learn to cope with extremes of weather and a short but quick season once the growing starts.   And Skylands has also reinforced the necessity for careful garden planning--what to plant, when to plant, how much to plant--so that the house can be filled with plumes of Cotinus (smoke bush), myriad branches of lilacs, dozens of lilies, and hundreds of sunflowers when I am there. That is when the house is always full of guests, and dinner parties are planned, and the garden is my only go-to source.   At present my biggest garden project is Cantitoe Farm, my 150-acre property in Katonah, about fifty miles north of New York City. It is still a "work in progress," a landscape with flower gardens, farm animals, horses, vegetable gardens, and greenhouses. I bought the place in 2000 and intended it to be my "last garden." I do not know if that will be the case, but it is certainly my largest garden to date. Simply laid out, on land that is gently sloping from one end (south) to the other (north), and intersected with smallish streams, the property is about 50 percent woodland and 50 percent pastures, fields, and gardens. There is lots of space to express my landscape ideas and ideals--four miles of curvaceous carriage roads enable me to quickly traverse from one end to the other on foot, on horseback, or by truck. The biggest accomplishment so far has been the careful delineation of spaces, the planting of allées of trees as well as boxwood, and my inclination now to replant the woodlands with many groves of interesting indigenous trees and plants. I have planted masses of my favorite kinds of flowers: a giant bed of pink-colored peonies; a very large perennial garden filled with all of my favorite lilies, poppies, and irises, among hundreds of others; two long gardens filled with many kinds of lilac shrubs; and borders of hydrangeas, Japanese maple trees, clematis, shade plants, and tulip beds.   There is no lack of flowers at the farm for arranging and enjoying, and no shortage of incredible opportunities to plant more of everything. I have become more interested now in variety, more picky with color choices, more critical of each and every thing I have nurtured, wanting each plant to be healthy, each flower to be usable, and the gardens to be a constant source of inspiration to others, notably Kevin Sharkey. Kevin came to work at Martha Stewart Living, the magazine, in 1996. He and I became instant colleagues and instant friends. Bostonian by birth, Kevin was educated at Rhode Island School of Design. He began his career at Parish-Hadley, the renowned decorating firm in New York City. (During school he had interned at the Arnold Arboretum, where he became knowledgeable about trees and shrubs, especially lilacs.) His love of flowers grew as he decorated rooms in homes of famous gardeners--Mrs. Vincent Astor, for one, and Mrs. Jock Whitney.   Walking through my gardens years ago, it became clear to both of us that I was the grower, and he was the cutter and arranger. It was as if I wrote the music, and he wrote the lyrics. We started our collaboration at Turkey Hill in Westport and then continued it in East Hampton, in Katonah, and in Seal Harbor, Maine. Kevin knows my gardens almost as well as I do, and he knows exactly what will please me, what will look good in the planned location, and what will not. When he ventures out into the landscape to pick and combine what I have grown into coherent "wholes," he creates beautiful arrangements that fit the spaces allocated, the season, and the occasion.   Over the last two decades, we have learned a lot about each other--and flowers. Together we often plan the types of flowers we will plant in a new garden, and we have concocted beautiful gardening glossaries and articles for the magazine. I trust him with scissors in my garden like I trust no other, except for my daughter Alexis.   The bouquets and arrangements in this book resulted from our close planning and envisioning--and luck--in growing spectacular blooms that combine well with one another, or with foliage, to bedazzle a room or call one's eyes to attention.   We are thrilled with the result of our labor, and hope you will be too.   And my motto for this book remains the same as in my first gardening book: Pour l'avenir, from the French, meaning "For the future." Excerpted from Martha's Flowers: Growing and Arranging My Favorite Blooms by Martha Stewart All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.