Jun 28, 2011

Going It Alone: Joe Eck

Joe Eck

North Hill Symposium
  June 24 2011

For the first time in 16 years,
Joe Eck stood alone at the podium. 
His partner of 40 years,
Wayne Winterrowd passed away in 2010.
The last time I attended the North Hill Symposium I was living in Vermont.  I had forgotten what distinguishes this powwow from others like it.  It is a gathering of friends.  Friends who don't know each other.  It's purpose is to bring gardeners together who want to share their experiences and knowledge.  It is intimate, personal; it feels like family.

Jennifer Bartley was the first speaker and the most academic.  Having written her thesis on the french potager, Ms. Bartley traced the roots of the current kitchen garden.  From the paradiso to oasis to cloister to edible garden, the theme was the same:  walled in.

What was noteworthy about this history lesson was the comparison between English and French potagers.  The English veg garden no matter how large is far from the house and the French veg garden is "out the door."  Bartley attributes the better quality of food in France to the potagers' proximity to the house.  Even at the over-the-top, Chateau Villandry, the  vegetable garden, enclosed by boxwood, is situated in the chateau's "backyard". 
Chateau Villandry Vegetable Garden
With great enthusiasm Bartley advocated that the vegetable garden be what and where the ornamental garden used to be.  After her talk ended, I asked the woman sitting next to me  where her veg garden was located.  "It's not next to my house.  You walk down a path.  It's a journey that I enjoy taking."

That is way I felt about the symposium.  No hard core information, but little tidbits and gems along the way.  At 3pm Beatrice Tosti di Valminuta took the "stage."  With help, she carried up a table of vegetables and condiments.  Ms. di Valminuta owns a restaurant called Il Bagatto in New York City that specializes in Roman cuisine.  A favorite of Joe and Wayne. 

From Beatrice Tosti di Valminuta
"Roman cuisine is poor, uncomplicated, masculine, very tasty and a celebration.  I hope you will enjoy trying these recipes and sharing them with family and friends.  I know the vegetable dishes will seem overcooked to you.  We just believe that French vegetables are undercooked."
Swiss chard with tomato - works wonderful with dandelions
When you are in the Roman countryside you can still see women picking up all sorts of greens on the side of the road or gleaning the fields.  They are after dandelions, rughetta (wild arugola) and sometimes swiss chard.
2 lb of swiss chard washed
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
4 anchovies
7 ripe plum tomatoes diced (the overachievers can peel them if they like)
4 cloves of garlic
A pinch of spicy red crushed pepper if you like
Sea salt to taste.

Cook the swiss chard in abundant salted water.  Drain, cut an squeeze and set aside.  Place the garlic cloves in a large saute pan with the oil over medium heat.  In Italy we almost never keep garlic, we just let it flavor the oil and then we discard it.  Feel free to keep it.  Add the anchovies and reduce it to a pulp with a fork.  Add the tomatoes and  a pinch of salt and cook for 15 minutes.  Add the swiss chard and cook for another 10 minutes stirring frequently.  Taste for salt.
This recipe could not be further away from Roman cuisine than General Tsao Chicken  - well maybe a little closer - but it is my homage to the amazingly beautiful state of Vermont.

2 cups creamy goat cheese
2/3 cup whole milk or goat milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
2.5 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoon gelatin

macedonia is the name we give to all kinds of fruit salad.  They are lovely and sometimes boozy.
2 pints strawberries washed and cut in quarters
3 tablespoons brown sugar/
the juice of one lemon
the juice of one orange
a pinch of cayenne
8 leaves of mint
Combine all the ingredients at least one our prior to serving and place covered in the refrigerator.

Add two tablespoons of cold water to a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin on top.  Set aside.

In a sauce pan combine goat cheese, heavy crream, milk, honey and vanilla extract.  Let it heat up over medium heat without boiling.  Stirring from time to time.
Remove from the heat and add the gelatin whisking to make sure it incorporates into the mixture.  At this point I like to give 3 fast pulses of an immersion blender, feel free to whisk vigorously or to strain your mixture so you do not have any clumps. Also a little clump never killed anyone.  Place in ramekins and refrigerate for at least 5 hours.  Can be prepared up to 2 days before.   Serve with the macedonia.

At the end of the day, each one of us tasted the Vermont Goat Cheese Pannacotta, Beatrice had made for each of us.  It turned a slightly bittersweet day into one of simple flavors.
Garden of Joe Eck
and Wayne Winterrowd

PO Box 178
Readsboro, VT 05350
"In the coming year, the garden will be open each Friday and Saturday afternoon from the end of April to middle of October.  Two workshops, seminars or demonstrations will occur each month.  Guided tours will be available to garden clubs and horticultural societies."

Jun 26, 2011

Protector of the Space:
and Great Dixter

Great Dixter
The Life of an Iconic Garden
Tuesday, June 21
21st. Annual Patron Lecture at Sotheby's

What was Christopher Lloyd to Fergus Garrett?  Friend, Mentor, Father-figure or  two people who had the same idea of what a garden should be?
As a garden, Great Dixter is intimate, exuberant, dynamic, experimental, inspirational and energetic. That is what you feel when you visit.  The reason I love it is because it's not perfect and it shows the visitor that imperfection.  It is the opposite of Sussinghurst.  There are weeds, tools and mistakes.
Fergus Garrett described the style of the garden as contrived informality.  It's an amazing feat to have deliberately chosen every plant, every combination and still the visitor feels randomness.  Plants may rule, but for me Dixter is about the unexpected.  Who takes 19th century topiary places it in a meadow?

"Now is different.  The style has remained.  Plants come and go. 
It's all about the spirit of the place." FG
When you listen to Fergus Garrett, you feel that Christopher Lloyd is in the room.  The passion that Garrett feels about Dixter is rare.  On Tuesday night he opened with, "Great Dixter is not everyones cup of tea."  It is mine.  It's Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Jasmine, Lapsang Souchong, Chai, and Gunpowder Green tea all rolled into one.

Garrett is looking ahead and mentoring as many young gardeners as he can.  He hopes one will take up the challenge of Great Dixter:  
keep it GREAT
keep it MESSY
keep it BOLD  
keep it RELEVANT
just keep it GOING!

FERGUS GARRETT is Head Gardener and CEO at Great Dixter, where he has worked for nearly 20 years, combining his exceptional horticultural skills and thorough knowledge of plants to create stunning scenes within the garden.  He passes along his expertise through teaching, guest appearances, and mentoring.  He has presented more then 350 lectures in over a half dozen countries and has been widely published in magazines and journals.  In 2008 he was awarded Associate of Honour by the Royal Horticultural Society.

copyright all photos of Great Dixter  Phyllis Odessey.

Jun 19, 2011


An Interview
Heather Ring

The ALGAE Garden
Heather Ring
Snnove Fredericks
Brenda Parker
Jardins de Metis 2011

PO:  Can you tell us about your practice?
HR:  I'm a landscape architect, and the founder of Wayward Plants (www.waywardplants.org.uk) - a collective of designers, artists and urban growers that create spaces of exchange for plants, collecting stories and bringing together communities.  Last summer, Wayward Plants designed and produced the Union Street Orchard (photo below) (www.unionstreetorchard.org.uk) for the London Festival of Architecture.

Right now we're working on the follow-up, the Urban Physic Garden (
www.physicgarden.org.uk) a pop-up apothecary and community-built garden of medicinal plants.

PO:  Why did you apply to the Jardis de Metis?
HR: I think it's a great testing ground for ideas, and a launchpad for young designers.  I actually interviewed the Montreal based landscape architecture collective, NIP Paysage, for Archinect.com - about how they got their start with a garden at Metis.  (www.archinect.com/features/articles)

PO:  What are the ideas behind the ALGAE GARDEN?
HR:The AlGAE GARDEN celebrates the beauty and productive potential of algae through a design that underlines its diversity and meaning.

This garden stands between the landscape, the artistic and the scientific world, presenting algae organized by colour and species in curtains of tubes hanging from steel frames.  The spectrum ranges from reds to greens to bio-luminescent algae, which can glow a bright blue.

The algae, often considered a nuisance in the garden pond, here becomes an object of beauty and curiosity.  The garden leads the visitor to appreciate algae both as an alternative to oil and other energy sources and a source of food and nutrition.  Referencing a pond edge, the garden will be lined with pond grasses, and will display algae specimens, most that can be sourced locally.

The garden will explore the diversity of an often-overlooked plant, and demonstrate possibilities for how algae might become an evocative and productive part of our daily lives.

The ALGAE GARDEN is in collaboration with Synnove Fredericks, an artist and designer motivated by social interaction, specifically exploring our relationship with food, which led her to research spirulina algae in the nomadic gardens of refugee camps, and bacteria and yeasts for their nutritional value, and Brenda Parker, a scientist interested in how microorganisms can be used for environmental good:  cleaning up arsenic from drinking water and remediating harmful chemicals.  She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Cambridge, working as part of a team on the development of biofuels from algae.

Sustainability is the new buzz word in the gardening world.  Heather Ring and the other members of her collaborative think about plants and gardens in a new way.  Their activities are horticultural, but also political.  Their gardens are contextual and turn our notions of what a garden is upside down.  Without resorting to cliches, Heather Ring is redefining horticulture in the 21st. century.

Jun 7, 2011

Henriette Granville Suhr

Henriette Granville Suhr

Marco Polo Stufano
A Life's Work:
Half a Century in the Garden
Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Henriette Granville Suhr scared me the other night.  She said something that rang too true.
 "When we started gardening, actually it's still true today, we went to the nursery and bought plants we liked.  They told us they were dwarf, so we just put them where we thought they would look good.  We didn't think they ever get to be 40 feet tall."

That is also my story, but I haven't lived long enough to see my dwarf trees get 40 feet tall.

Henriette Granville Suhr talked with Marco Polo Stufano about her garden and her life.  Most of us thought that the slide show of photographs from Ms. Suhr childhood and career as head of Home Furnishing Department at Bloomingdales in 1950's would have something to do with the kind of garden she has made over the last half century.  Even Mr. Stufano could not eke out a connection between her career, which was visionary and her garden, which is very beautiful.  

He tried though.  He gave a few examples of how Ms. Suhr had broken the rules.  Parrot tulips planted in bouquets in the middle of a meadow, crab apples in a line at the edge of the woods, lilac standards placed next to maple trees instead on a terrace in pots.  But Ms. Suhr disagreed.  "I don't think we ever had any rules."   

Ms. Suhr has given her 8-acre garden, Rocky Hills to Westchester County Department of Parks and Recreation and Conservation.  Her parting words to the audience, "You can control what is inside your house, but you cannot control what is outside.  It tells you what to do!"
When I am in my ninth decade, I don't want anyone to tell me what to do, especially Nature. It's obvious,  I haven't yet learned the lesson Ms. Suhr has.

Jun 5, 2011

Our Shared Environment


Outside the Planter Boxes
creative interventions in our urban environments

I have been asked to think about what kind of planters can be put in a vast parking lot.  To solve this kind of problem, I look for an artistic solution rather than a horticultural one.

This is a really interesting project from Toronto.  
I am passing it along...

Through creative interventions, this project highlights some of the neglected city tree planter boxes that line our busy streets. These planters are generally made of concrete and many are cracked or missing large chunks (see gallery images). Others have been replaced with standardized two-piece boxes. However, some of these are too small for the existing mature trees and their roots, leaving huge gap between the two sides. More still contain only stumps, or have become garbage bins with little to no vegetation at all. 

To be clear, this project is not about pointing fingers. In areas of major or ongoing roadwork, planters have removed or changed by the city. Others are just being replaced here and there as previously mentioned. In select neighbourhoods, street planters are well maintained by BIAs, businesses and/or residents. This project works primarily with those currently in poor condition.

We all have stakes in our shared environments, and this public project directly engages with Toronto’s urban fabric. One of the primary intents of the Outside the Planter Boxes project is to encourage more direct participation and interest in our shared public spaces – to demonstrate that the public can play a more consciously active role in how our city is shaped. Hopefully you will find the project reveals possibilities for alternatives and perhaps more biodiversity, creative gestures, and better city infrastructure.

I first had the idea for some of these interventions more than two years ago, but put it on the back-burner. However, this January 2011, I was fortunate enough to be awarded the first Toronto FEAST Project Grant to help support the endeavor. FEAST is an independently organized funding event series new to Toronto (originally launched in Brooklyn) whereby presenters and others in the community attend and vote for the project they would most like to see realized. The first proved fun and rewarding, and it was interesting just to hear everyone’s ideas.

Bentley Ball
Heather Lee and Janis Demkiw

More details about the project:
My original proposal was to realize some of the planter projects I had previously conceived, but I later decided to expand the project by inviting others to simultaneously create unique planter interventions of their own around the city. My call was fairly open and I suggested the interventions could take on any number of forms – from conspicuous (and perhaps only temporary) repairs, to straightforward weeding and planting, to sculptural additions or performance. I only asked that participants use their own best judgment and please not cause any major permanent damage, create physically dangerous structures/situations, or introduce invasive or otherwise harmful species. As you can see on this site, participants came through with fantastic results.
Holy Blue

One artist, Bentley Ball, did not even know about the project until he saw some of the installations taking place in his own neighbourhood.  After speaking with another participant, he took it upon himself to join-in and created two wonderful planter interventions of his own on the same street the next day.  We’re all very happy he did, and think his initiative is a great demonstration of how such projects can expand, and lead to greater engagement within our shared urban environments.

All told, more than 30 planters interventions were created by our group of
17 Toronto based artists, designers, gardeners and urbanites within a 24-hour period between Saturday May 20th and Sunday May 21st, 2011.

Karen Abel

Thank you again to everyone who took part, helped, and supported this project. It wouldn’t have been the same without you.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Sean Martindale

Jun 2, 2011

Fence Embroidery:
Katherine Daniels

Randall's Island Flow.11
I am surrounded by chain link fences. They enclose the ball fields and soccer fields on Randall's Island.  I have tried to like them, but haven't found a way to wrap my head around their utilitarian purpose.  Katherine Daniels changed my mind.  She is the first of five artists to install an environmental art piece on Randall's Island.  

The design for the fence is reminiscent of Native American art... in pottery, rugs and baskets.  I asked Katherine about the inspiration for her design.  " I always research the place I am asked to make an artwork for.  I found that the Carnasie Indians originally settled in Manhattan and since Randall's Island is part of Manhattan, I decided that basing my work on these geometric patterns would be appropriate to the site."

"Carnasie" is a phonetic interpretation of a word in the lenape language for "fenced land" or "fort."  The Native Americans who made the infamous sale of the island of Manhattan for 60 guilders were Lenape.   Europeans would often refer to the indigenous people living in an area by the local place-name, so reference may be found in contemporary documents to "Cararsee Indians." - Wikipedia
From Katherine Daniels website
Artist's Statement
"Outrageous elegance", a Buddhist concept, describes a manner that is approachable by being neither too cold (elegance alone).  This term is an apt description of the beauty, joy, humor and absurdity I strive for in my art.  I am interested in grand visual and physical forms that introduce and induce awe and wonder.  I make opulent abstract gardens that invoke a spirit and paradise.  I have been beading organic abstractions that descend from the ceiling or ascend walls.  They reference a mix of ornamental styles such as quilts from my Appalachian roots, the art of interior surfaces like rugs, Islamic and Asian textiles and screens, as well as environments that inspire awe such as the Sistine Chapel and the gardens at Versaille.  My work induces pleasure by unabashedly embracing abstract ornament.

Her work has unabashedly changed the way I view a chain link fence.