‘Not enough to buy a house’

Martha Stewart told a sold-out audience in Longwood Gardens amphitheater that the Brandywine Valley is one of the most beautiful places in the country. She started coming to the area so she could drive carriages with Frolic Weymouth. Rumors spread at the time Stewart was buying a house in Chadds Ford. Although she still comes here for work at QVC, her love of the area wasn’t enough to add an additional property to the three she already owns.

Kevin Sharkey, left, Martha Stewart and Paul Redman have a conversation about gardening

The audience was invited to a conversation led by Paul Redman, president and CEO of Longwood Gardens.  Stewart and Kevin Sharkey were engaged to talk about the new book they wrote together, “Martha’s Flowers A Practical Guide to Growing, Gathering and Enjoying” published by Clarkson Potter Publishers. This guide is Stewart's 90th book.

Tickets to the performance that included an autograph session with the authors sold out in five minutes after they were put on sale. The remaining tickets, with unsigned books, sold out within 24 hours according to Nick D'Addezio from Longwood Gardens.

Kristina Closs drove three hours from the Poconos the morning of the show to be able to see Martha Stewart. Closs, expecting her third child at the end of June, said it was well worth it. Charlie Hanlon, 91, came from Springfield with his daughter to see the woman he loves to watch cook on TV.

Stewart and Sharkey told of their working relationship. Sharkey is Executive Director of Design for Martha Stewart Living. Their relationship grew to include a position of putting to most beautiful use the flowers that Stewart grows on her three properties, in Cantitoe Farm in Katonah, N.Y., Lily Pond in East Hampton, N.Y. and Skylands on Mount Desert Island, Maine. Each of the locations has its own climate. Maine, for example, is better for lilacs Stewart said.

All three participants shared their enthusiasm for flowers and gardening. Stewart said she often steals away a couple of hours from QVC to get to Longwood Gardens for inspiration. Redman was making note of their suggestions for Longwood Gardens. All shared destain for staking plants. Sharkey suggested that pea brush provides support for plants while not being conspicuous. All shared their appreciation for a tub grinder that lets them chip trees to be re-used. Stewart doesn’t chop her felled trees for logs. Rather she puts them three times through a tub grinder. The third time she includes some chips from previous year's chipped up trees.

All of the flowers shown in the book were grown by Stewart except for a carnation and begonia duly noted. Sharkey was asked how he kept flower arrangements looking good. He replied that when flowers are first picked, they should be put as hot of water as will come from the faucet. When flowers are flopping, Sharkey said that gin or vodka worked well.

Stewart noted that most of the arrangements in the book are monochrome, and that all arrangements are enhanced by adding foliage. When asked where to start if one wants to take up gardening she said to start by going to Longwood Gardens and Chanticleer. Note what you like. Note whether the plants you like grow in sun or shade. Then make a plan according to light and shade requirements. Another dimension of the plan is the time of year blooms appear.

Stewart said that she also spends time seed shopping. When in Turkey or Paris, she skips the dress shops and goes to look for seed. She said that lettuce, for example, is better in Italy.

The book is dedicated to Stewart’s grandchildren. She planted an avocado pit for each of her grandchildren. The trees are now 10 feet tall.

Redman asked Stewart what advice she would give to the next generation. “Keep a calendar” of what blooms and when year after year. Her mantra for the next generation is “Learn something new every day.”


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About Emily Myers

Emily Myers has lived and worked in Chadds Ford for over thirty years.  She founded the parent company of Chadds Ford Live, Decision Design Research, Inc., in 1982.  ChaddsFordLive.com represents the confluence of Myers' long time, deep involvement in technology and community. Myers was a founding member of the Chadds Ford Business Association and currently serves on its board of directors.  Her hobbies include bridge, golf, photography and Tai Chi. She lives with her husband, Jim Lebedda, in Chadds Ford Township.



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