Tips for Enjoying Your Garden
This design maven gave us the lowdown on entertaining within your garden and bringing some of what’s outside in
Charlotte Moss is a celebrated interior designer, author, and frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal’s WSJ. She’s also an enthusiastic gardener whose most recent book, Charlotte Moss: Garden Inspirations, is, she is quick to say, “a book on gardens, not a gardening book.”
Dozens of spectacular gardens from around the world are featured in the book, which also includes a chapter about legendary and eccentric gardeners such as Vita Sackville-West, who gardened in jodhpurs and pearls. But perhaps the most fun chapters invite readers to enjoy Moss’ garden-inspired dinners, from the menu and table settings to the floral arrangements. We called Charlotte away from the garden for a few questions.
Where did you find your garden inspirations?
First, I would say that my inspirations come from travel. Second, reading about people who have created great gardens out of nothing. I’m thinking of Vita Sackville-West. Sissinghurst was a ruin, and she had to have incredible vision and stamina to look at that barren landscape and envision the garden it would become.
How would you describe your gardening style?
Similar to my decorating style. Personal. Relaxed. While there are carefully clipped hedges, some things happened as willy-nilly surprises.
How did your garden evolve?
I find that a garden unfolds and talks to you over time. It is a totally organic process. I am always changing things that are not working. And sometimes tastes change. At the beginning of my garden [in the Hamptons], I was a more ambitious gardener and wanted masses of flowers. As my taste evolved, I was drawn more to the architecture of the garden and how different shades of green can be their own story.
You had a home in Colorado. What grew best for you?
We had two different houses in Aspen. One had a nice garden of delphinium, larkspur, foxglove, and gobs of columbine. I even had some glorious roses that I mulched and wrapped in winter. And, of course, beautiful lilacs. The second house was out on the mountain and much more exposed, but I was still able to grow succulents like American agave and burro’s tail. They looked great in big stone pots and troughs.
When you arrange a large group at home, how do you arrange the table to suit the event?
For large groups, I love a good buffet where everyone can load up, spread big napkins in their laps, and sit wherever they wish. I do keep a notebook—it is difficult to keep everything in my head when I’m running a business, have two houses and a not-for-profit life. I think every party should be a fun event; otherwise, what’s the purpose? And of course there are lots of flowers and sometimes goody bags with flowers. Everyone likes something to take home.
What are your entertaining musts?
We must have fun. Essentials are good conversation and laughter. We must not talk about politics. We must never talk religion, and we must never have two litigating attorneys together at the same table.
Could you give us a few tips or rules for flower arranging?
No rules. I hate rules. We have all seen the most gorgeous arrangements by professionals and, well, they can be intimidating. My advice? Pick one flower that you really love, and be generous with it. It can be a bucketload of daisies, literally in a bucket. Or a single bloom. Make it simple for yourself. Make arrangements as a treat to yourself.
Any surprising tricks to a great arrangement?
Have a great walk around in your yard. Make discoveries. I think you will surprise yourself. Five hosta leaves in a tall vase make a great arrangement. A big vase of branches after a windstorm make a great statement. Or simply a leaf of this and a leaf of that—whatever’s available in your garden. The trick is to lighten up, loosen up, and enjoy yourself.
Do you have a go-to flower, something that always looks good in an arrangement?
Aside from the obvious—fragrant, big blowsy roses—I like simple things like marigolds in little baskets, nasturtiums in tiny vases, wildflowers, and even weeds.
How can you keep a garden-y feeling in the winter?
That depends on where you are and how much sun you get. Sunny windows could take succulents. I love herbs in window boxes. And the Chinese evergreen is very faithful and hardy.
Where do people go most wrong in decorating?
By not letting their hair down and by not just being themselves in their own home. Don’t follow trends. Sure, look at magazines and books for inspiration, but then adapt, extract, and absolutely put your own stamp on it.
You can learn more about Charlotte Moss: Garden Inspirations here.