In the Garden With Martha Stewart
The lifestyle guru shares decades of flower knowledge in her 90th book, Martha’s Flowers
Via books, TV shows, magazines, craft tutorials, blog posts, countless recipes and the occasional help of Snoop Dogg, Martha Stewart has taught her loyal audience that with practice and patience, there’s potential for beauty in everything. In her newest book, Martha’s Flowers, she takes us back to where her love of pretty things began—the garden. As a kid growing up in Nutley, New Jersey, Stewart took to her father’s affinity for seeds and soil.
“He was an avid gardener. I remember our family breakfast table, the table where we ate every meal, was just covered in seedling plants,” she says. “We were completely surrounded by growing things at all times—winter, spring, summer, fall. And I remember poring over the stacks of seed catalogs that would come in the mail.”
Stewart surrounds herself with flowers to this day. Her morning ritual begins in one of her three gardens, sprawled across hundreds of acres in Maine and New York (she was working in Cantitoe Corners—her Bedford, New York, garden—at 7 a.m. on the day of our interview), and at any given moment, her home brims with fresh-cut arrangements.
In Martha’s Flowers, Stewart, along with co-author and creative partner Kevin Sharkey, provides a firsthand guide for planting, growing and enjoying 16 types of flowers—from easygoing tulips to finicky delphiniums—alongside photos of arrangements that evoke as much romance and drama as a Dutch still-life painting. The 288-page tome is exactly what you’d expect from the queen of all-things-domestic: meticulous, encouraging and, of course, beautiful.
YOUR MOTTO FOR MARTHA’S FLOWERS IS POUR L’AVENIR, MEANING “FOR THE FUTURE” IN FRENCH. WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THAT PHRASE?
To give people permission to take their time to garden, and not only for them, but for future generations. The lilacs in Rochester, New York, are very famous in the city park. They’re probably 80 years old. And people still come from near and far to see them when they’re in bloom. I did a whole cover story on them. They’re fantastic. But if they hadn’t been planted 80 years ago, all those varieties, they wouldn’t be there now.
A billowing hydrangea arrangement in blue and purple hues. [Photo by Victoria Pearson]
Stewart and Sharkey wrestle with a towering display of carnations in Bedford, New York. [Photo by Anna Williams]
WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR GROWING FLOWERS IN COLORADO?
It all depends on your altitude and mean temperature. You have to know your zone. You have to know your climate. You have to know your accessibility to water. In the desert parts, you really can’t concentrate a lot on perennials, you have to do more annual kind of growing. I know that lupins and bulbs like lilies grow beautifully in Colorado. You can grow daffodils in certain parts, and shade-loving plants if you’re working under high woodlands. I have friends with homes in Aspen—those climates are pretty nice for flower growing.
For a unique table centerpiece, Stewart recommends floating dahlia blossoms. [Photo by Ngoc Minh Ngo]
WHAT DO YOU DO TO KEEP CUT FLOWERS LOOKING FRESH AND LIVELY?
If you want to prolong the life of a cut flower, keep snipping the stem, shortening it day by day. I change out all the water almost every day in arrangements. And follow the odd tips I give: Woody tips can be crushed or snipped. You can put a teaspoon of bleach in the water for [shiny] plants, to keep the water clear. You can put a lot of flowers like poppies in hot water to keep them fresher longer. You can cauterize with a flame some of the milky stems, like poppies.
Autumn blooms with ornamental kale and fall leaves. [Photo by Bryan Gardner]
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE GARDENING TOOLS?
Go to QVC and look at the Martha gardening products. Those are my favorites—I’m trying to provide the at-home gardener with as many of my favorite products as possible on there. I have my favorite gardening secateurs for $39, which is a great price (Easy Grip Secateurs with Protective Sheath, $39.96). And I have these giant tote bags that are lightweight and very easy to use to collect debris when you’re weeding or removing rocks, twigs, grass cuttings (Heavy Duty Canvas Garden Tote, $29.98).
Bright-green stems bound with a clear rubber band give this peony arrangement a clean-lined architectural look. [Photo by Gentl and Hyers]
YOUR FIRST GARDENING BOOK CAME OUT IN 1991. HOW HAS MORE THAN 25 YEARS OF WORK IN THE GARDEN INFLUENCED YOUR NEW RELEASE?
In 1991 I hadn’t really developed any gardens other than Turkey Hill, and that was my labor of love, done without any help whatsoever. I now have help in all my gardens, even though I still mastermind the plans and I’m still doing all the ordering. … This book was not done in just one year. People forget that you have to buy the place, dig the garden, design it, grow it and let it get mature enough so that you actually have some plants. I mean, the lilac chapter would never exist without about 10 years of work. Every flower in the book comes from one of my gardens. So that’s quite an accomplishment.