Personally, I've only known one individual who planted, grew and arranged her own flowers and that was my grandmother. Whether it was peonies, lilacs, tulips, daffodils or lily-of-the-valley, my grandmother always had an arrangement or two in her home during the spring and summer months, made with flowers cut directly from her garden, which she designed and planted herself.
I am an apartment dweller but I make it a point to always have cut flowers around me - or at least potted flowering bulbs, such as tulips and hyacinths. There is nothing like the appearance of blooms indoors - on the dining room table, a nightstand, a desk or even on the kitchen counter. Flowers bring unparalleled joy to a space.
Martha's 90th book is all about the joy that flowers bring to one's world. Instructive in its tone with tips on how to plant, grow and arrange some of Martha's favourite varieties, the book also delivers inspiration in spades. Filled with lavish photographs of Martha's gardens and flower arrangements in her homes, it is the kind of book a Martha Stewart fan eagerly anticipates - and this one surely delivers. The book is a beautiful tome, a gorgeous collection of some of the most extraordinary bouquets and arrangements made with Martha's flowers.
The book is divided into chapters by season and then sub-categorized by flower type: a handy way to structure a book that could otherwise be overwhelming to a potential grower. Each flower type is examined at length with instructions on how to plant, grow and arrange them, culminating in several gorgeous arrangements that appear in one of Martha's homes, whether it's her farm in upstate New York, her summer home in Maine or her house in East Hampton.
"It is still a 'work in progress,' a landscape with flower gardens, farm animals, horses, vegetable gardens and greenhouses... 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 allees 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 massed my favorite kinds of flowers: a giant bed of pink-colored peonies; a very large perennial garden filled with all of my favorite kinds of 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."
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In her introduction, Martha lists the six gardens she has created and developed.
1. BERKSHIRE COTTAGE:
Her first garden was a small garden in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts where she and her husband, Andy, had a small cottage. It was the first time Martha had expressed herself through the creation of a garden. She used her favourite gardening books as inspiration, as well as memories and notes from some of the famed gardens she had visited around the country and in Europe. She recalls hearing her father's instructive voice in her mind, too, with remembrances of the garden he created at her childhood home in Nutley, New Jersey. The cottage garden was small but painterly with lots of perennials and herbs and some annuals planted around a central path.
2. TURKEY HILL:
This is the garden that really allowed Martha to soar as a gardener. Through trial and error (and more trial and more error) she developed one of the most personal and expressive gardens of her lifetime on six acres in Westport, Connecticut. Developed over the course of some 30 years, the garden evolved into a dreamland setting where all of Martha's personal joys were expressed through the poetic use of landscaping and planting. The Turkey Hill garden was the foundation of her first gardening book, "Gardening, Month by Month" which was published in 1991. Read more about Martha's Turkey Hill garden here.
3. LILY POND LANE:
The one-acre parcel of land at Lily Pond, Martha's home in East Hampton, New York, was where Martha intended to grow some of the best-loved and rarest varieties of roses. The temperate, seaside climate created ideal conditions for the growing of roses and she planted numerous varieties, from climbing to shrub varieties. These roses were eventually moved to her farm but the gardens continue to evolve. Martha also planted hundreds of tulips here and created beautiful shade gardens with ferns, hostas and Japanese maples. To read more about the Lily Pond gardens, click here.
4. GREENFIELD HILL, CONNECTICUT
For a brief period, Martha owned a home in Fairfield, Connecticut, with a 45-acre plot that she intended to be her "big garden." Martha created an elaborate landscaping plan for the property, which was never realized, but she did manage to plant some gorgeous trees on the property including a rare variety of gum tree, broad-leafed magnolias and a grove of mature gingko trees, purchased from the New York Botanical garden.
For the first time, Martha inherited an acclaimed garden, one designed by one of America's foremost landscape architects, Jens Jensen. Situated in the woodsy hills of Mount Desert Island, Maine, the prairie-style garden presented new challenges for Martha. She had now to play the roles of caretaker and preserver, restoring and then perfecting the plans that Jensen had meticulously laid out for Edsel and Eleanor Ford, the first owners of Skylands who had commissioned Jensen in 1925 with the creation of the landscape for their summer home. Moss, ferns, reflecting pools and an intricate system of pathways created an environment for indigenous and imported species of woodland plants and flowers. It is now one of Martha's favourite places to spend her time. To read more about the Skylands gardens, click here.
6. CANTITOE FARM:
In 2000, Martha finally did undertake the creation of her "big garden" when she purchased 153 acres in Katonah, New York. She set about creating what she calls a "farmette" with animals, vegetable gardens, cutting gardens and greenhouses, allowing her every horticultural whim to be realized. With winding carriage roads, woodlands and fields, it is a place where she can devote time to planting trees and sowing her most beloved varieties of flowers - with room to spare! To read more about Cantitoe Corners, click here.