Thursday, March 10, 2011

Guest Blogger -Tovah Martin

photo by Steven Clar

Even if the only gardening you've ever done was to hang a pot of petunias on the side porch, you have probably heard of Tovah Martin.  She is a legendary and passionate gardener with experience that runs deep.

For 25 years she was with the famous Logee's Greenhouses in Connecticut and then with White Flower Farm.  She is the author of over a dozen gardening books, including the best-selling Tasha Tudor's Garden, and her latest book, The New Terrarium, has been recommended reading by the New York Times Book Review.  

She is a prolific writer and contributes to many of the top-selling home and gardening magazines, including Country Gardens, Horticulture, Garden Design, and Country Living.  She also writes her own gardening blog, Plantswise, and is a regular contributor to the popular blog, Gardening Gone Wild.

When she's not writing, lecturing, or appearing on TV and radio, she is singlehandedly maintaining her own 7-acre organic property that includes perennial borders, berry, vegetable and herb gardens.

As a dear friend, I am thrilled to have her here on Notes from Juniper Hill as our very first Guest Blogger!  In the entry below, she sets us straight on how she walks the line.

For a complete bio on Tovah, you can click here or visit her website at
Home page photo of Tovah by Susan Johann

Curvaceous- A Rebuttal 
by Tovah Martin

The worst part of this winter wasn’t the cold. No. It was the path. Struck by a fit of practicality, I shoveled it straight. It was a rash decision. But when I multiplied 3 feet of cold white cement by the 300 foot stretch between the back door and the goat barn, straight seemed the way to go. Then I had to look at it for 3 solid months. And that was hell.  

In general, I hold no strong opinions in life. Although I’ll probably always be a liberal and a vegetarian, I’m negotiable on most issues. That’s why axes and I don’t get along. I’ve never marched in an unwavering path anywhere and I don’t plan to start now. Everything in my world has curves; there are no straight lines. Over a normal winter and during the summer, the path to the barn looks something like my hips. Don’t ask me to elaborate on that image. But it feels right.  

Point is, life just doesn’t seem to line up perfectly. At least, mine hasn’t (I’m an Aries). Even my foray into horticulture was initially a scenic detour that turned into a lifestyle during my formative years. You have to leave room for that sort of digression. 

photos above by Tovah Martin
And I’ve always felt that nature likes a dalliance. Go ahead – prove me wrong – but I’m not seeing a whole lot of straight lines in nature. Show me a sharp right angle in nature, and I’ll show you a gardener with a penchant for espalier. As a result, I found myself putting in a circular vegetable garden (do not try this at home – fencing it was a nightmare of geometric proportions). Leading into it is a berry garden shaped vaguely like a Nike whoosh (fear not, Nike, it’s virtually unrecognizable). The front garden is shaped like a peace sign with arthritis. The goat pasture is like a parallelogram on drugs. Even the clothesline sags.

I know, I know…it’s tough on photographers. But I prefer the sense of mystery. What can I say? I like to get lost in a garden. I hear all you garden designers, I’m listening when you proclaim that an axis makes for a tidy view. It’s true. Every once in a while, I slip into someone else’s garden and I get my axis fix there. I soak up all the sight lines. I sigh. I swoon. I leave their masterpiece bursting with admiration. I go home happy. I download my super pictures. I think that maybe a strong, bold, chiseled axis might be in my future. And then I meander idly around my own curvaceous garden, poking into its hidden recesses. I round the bend into its little secrets and I am personally fulfilled. If you know the difference between happy and fulfilled, you’re following my drift here. I take the long way home.

“It takes all types…” my mother likes to say when someone walks by with a pineapple balanced on their head. I’m aware that the rest of humanity and I often sing in a different pitch. But tell me the truth. Faced with a straight path, aren’t you dying to weave? Walk slightly askew, maybe? Or is it just me?


  1. "Is it just me?" Answer , say I, NO! Curves offer surprises! And who doesn't like surprises! And when you add tight space to open mass following, 'WOW!' I am so on board with all the insights offered here!

  2. I'm with you, Holly. And I love the open mass idea. Don't you think curves add drama? My dilemma now is = how to incorporate curves into a yawning square backyard lawn without seeming contrived. Ideas? -- Tovah


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