Today’s culture vultures may be curious how Martha Stewart feels about the college admissions scandal or what she and her buddy Snoop Dogg do in the green room of their new TV show.
But, true fans of the homemaking maven know the most interesting thing about Stewart is her enduring wisdom on how to make our lives and spaces evermore beautiful without being too precious.
For almost four decades, the reserved New Englander has been sharing decorating advice and recipes through every form of media, gently securing her place in the zeitgeist with a wicked sense of humor that she occasionally serves up with those perfectly presented canapés. Her 2004 prison sentence for insider trading only made her more popular, and her $300 million Martha Stewart Living empire continues to thrive.
As the 77-year-old writes in her latest book, her career — and her contentment — begins and ends in the garden. “Martha’s Flowers: A Practical Guide to Growing, Gathering, and Enjoying” is her 90th home and lifestyle book. yet the first dedicated solely to growing and arranging decorative blooms.
A showpiece for the coffee table, as well as a seasonal planning manual, the book includes lush photography of her own gardens in New York, Connecticut and Maine, as well as breathtaking presentations of their bounty. She shares authorship with designer and gardening companion Kevin Sharkey, whom she credits with a keen eye and careful hand.
Stewart and Sharkey will be in Savannah to discuss their new book at 2:30 p.m. April 25 at the Savannah Theatre, sponsored by the Telfair Museums. Early birds have snapped up all the seats for a sold-out luncheon at the Perry Lane Hotel beforehand.
In between planning her famous peony party and filming “Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner,” the mistress of shelter media took time to answer questions about coaxing the best blooms from any plot, inspiration from her father and whether she might include hemp in next year’s garden.
Do: You mostly plant your gardens much farther north. What and how would plant differently if you lived in our balmy zone 8b?
Martha Stewart: “If I lived in balmy zone 8b, I would have a semi-tropical garden. I love cycads, tree ferns and palms of all sort. I would have a green jungle-like garden. That’s my dream."
What is your most basic advice for those planting their first flower garden and/or those with limited space and resources?
“'Martha’s Flowers' is a book for serious gardeners, beginner gardeners and hobbyists. It is both aspirational and inspirational and full of really sound advice on planting, growing, cutting and arranging. For those planting their very first garden, it’s important to stress not to make it too large and not to plant it in too complicated of a fashion. Experiment with different varieties until you find what you love and what you are comfortable growing.”
You mention your father in the book as your gardening inspiration. How does his influence live on in the way you plant today?
“My dad was a wonderful gardener and was a great example of his genetic make-up. [He was from Poland.] Poles are known for their gardening skills and ability to grow almost anything, and my dad was just like that. He taught me how to grow things from cuttings and seeds and to nurture patience wherever the garden was concerned.”
Why is designer Kevin Sharkey the only person you trust with scissors in your gardens besides your own daughter?
“Kevin is an impeccably careful gardener and he also knows how to pick flowers. He will not denude one peony bush and leave another full of blooms. He knows how to selectively cut and selectively choose the best blooms without ruining the garden’s appearance. That’s why he is always allowed to cut.”
Sharkey's divine arrangements make the most of the garden's present moment. How can home arrangers imitate his style?
“By reading ‘Martha’s Flowers,’ one can get a tremendous amount of information and instruction from both Kevin and me about flower arranging. The designs we photographed are meant to act as inspiration, not necessarily a template for other people’s flower arrangements. We want to share ideas, but you can created the final product.”
You advocate for keeping a seasonal planting calendar, but also acknowledge that climate change continues to present challenges to a season routine. What are the ways gardeners can accommodate unpredictable temperatures and weather patterns?
“There are several ways gardeners can accommodate unpredictable temperatures and weather patterns. One, don’t plan any specific events around a specific bloom. My peonies have bloomed three weeks early or six weeks late. Always keep your garden in beautiful condition, and plan for successive blooming. You will always have a garden that is presentable and lovely.”
The 2018 Farm Act has made hemp legal to grow in all 50 states. Would you ever consider using the non-psychoactive form of cannabis plant as an ornamental in the garden?
“I have never grown hemp or cannabis. I actually don’t know that I would incorporate it into a garden scheme. I think it would thrive better by itself, unencumbered by other growth.”