Martha Stewart's Gardening Month By Month (1991 Clarkson Potter) was Martha's eighth book and is my second-favourite, after Entertaining. At the time of the book's release Martha was already a bestselling author, a well-known spokesperson and consultant for Kmart and a columnist in national newspapers and magazines. She was considered to be the leading lifestyle expert in America, with stints on David Letterman and Oprah, and special holiday programs on television. She was on the cusp of releasing the first issue of her magazine, Martha Stewart Living, and launching her weekly TV series of the same name. Yes, 1991 was a big year for Martha!
I was in elementary school at the time of the book's release and the name Martha Stewart was still unknown to me. I purchased this book nearly a decade later and it instantly captivated me, reminding me of the gardens at my grandparents' house and the gardens I helped plan with my dad, sitting with him at the kitchen table imagining which plants would go where. It was the book's personal vision that I found so engaging, calling to mind nearly all of the gardens I had loved as a child, even if they were not as large or ambitious as Martha's. They still held so much wonder, then and now in memory, just as Martha's Turkey Hill gardens did for me when I first laid eyes on this book.
Gardening Month by Month is the quintessential Martha Stewart book: a large, coffee-table sized format with full-colour imagery of the grounds at Turkey Hill. There are recipes and illustrated instructions, as well as informative how-tos that are humanized by Martha's personal garden journal entries. Already, Martha's lifestyle concept of incorporating several areas of content (cooking, decorating, gardening, crafting) into one beautifully-written, gorgeously-illustrated volume was apparent. The concept would prove to be the foundation for Martha Stewart Living magazine upon its release and Martha's eponymous company, by extention.
These are two of my favourite photos of Martha in the book: on the left is Martha dripping with sweat and caked in dirt as the sun sets at Turkey Hill after a long day outdoors. You can almost hear her sighing. I think the photo goes a long way in quashing the impression many people had of Martha as someone who doesn't like to get her hands dirty. These gardens are her gardens and her personal work was instrumental in their keeping, year after year. On the right, Martha is on the sun porch, pruning some of her houseplants. In the book, she reveals that she has rarely had luck with typical houseplants but finds them irresistible. I enjoy the expression of uncertainty on her face as she leans back before making that fateful snip with her shears!
View of an arbour leading to the shade garden at Turkey Hill.
The dead of winter is the perfect time to plan and prepare for spring planting: Martha planning her formal herb garden, left, and ordering seeds and bulbs from her favourite catalogs, right.
The plans for Martha's formal herb garden at Turkey Hill were extremely elaborate, as you can see in the illlustration above. The finished product was a rustic variation on the sketch, but no less prolific. In the book, Martha shows how the wall was built and how her herb plantings were planned.
This arbour leads wanderers to the 'barn' shown in the background near the potting shed. It was an old structure at the back of the property that Martha used for entertaining and restoring large pieces of furniture. A second laneway led from Turkey Hill Road to this location, which is where the herb garden was planted on the opposite side.
Martha's excellent flower-arranging skills are shown to great effect throughout the book in numerous examples.
Peonies and a white picket gateway leading to the orchard, left. Throughout the book are botanical illustrations from the 1800s by English artist J.T. Hart. These drawings were later developed by Martha into a collection of writing papers and stationery designed by Robert Valentine Inc.