First, let me say that I am not a Martha Stew­art basher.

I was not among those who took glee in the fall ofAmerica’s Domes­tic Diva. I acknowl­edge that it seems that she can be quite, uh, mean-spirited and bru­tal on her min­ions. But I also rec­og­nize that she has made some sig­nif­i­cant accom­plish­ments. She has cre­ated a huge empire from noth­ing. She raised home­mak­ing to an art dur­ing a time when high-powered careers were more in vogue. I also think she has suf­fered might­ily from some highly pub­li­cized per­sonal embarrassments—an icky divorce when her hus­band ran off with her for­mer assis­tant and a finan­cial scan­dal that prob­a­bly wouldn’t have meant jail time for most investors.

So it’s not as a Martha-basher that I have decided to air my dis­ap­point­ments in her new garden.


The March issue of Martha Stew­art Liv­ing was my first look at her gar­den at Can­ti­toe Cor­ners, Martha’s newest ren­o­va­tion, a 152-acre estate inNew York’s fash­ion­ableWestch­ester­County. The arti­cle, “Fruit­ful Endeav­ors,” fea­tures her veg­etable gar­den and, accord­ing to the author, some “clever and inno­v­a­tive techniques.”

Frankly, I’m dis­ap­pointed in Martha’s Fruit­ful Endeavors.

First, Martha has cho­sen to sur­round the 90 by150 feet­gar­den with a seven foot-tall metal fence that looks more like it belongs around her for­mer prison home than around a veg­etable gar­den on an “estate.” I under­stand the need for a fence of some height. After all, those white-tailed deer can leap tall build­ings in a sin­gle bound, right? But why a metal fence? There are so much more lovely alternatives.


For exam­ple, how about the highly func­tional and also attrac­tive fence sur­round­ing the veg­etable gar­den atMount Ver­non? George Wash­ing­ton designed this beau­ti­ful fence with a brick­work base and picket fence top. Despite the fact that it’s over seven feet tall, it doesn’t look like a prison exer­cise yard. Rather, the fence adds archi­tec­ture and grace to the garden.

Sec­ond, the arti­cle boasts about her clever use of rotat­ing crops. That’s “clever and innovative?”


What’s more, it appears that the vast major­ity of the gar­den is laid out in rows, or, as the arti­cle puts it, rows in a “rig­or­ous geom­e­try to yield max­i­mum results and easy access.”

Why max­i­mum results? As far as I know, she lives alone. Is she feed­ing a small nation army I’m not aware of? If not, why is she sac­ri­fic­ing beauty purely for the sake of “max­i­mum” production?


t seems that old George (Yes, George Wash­ing­ton again.) was feed­ing a heap more peo­ple, what with the slaves and all. His gar­dens seemed quite pro­duc­tive and also man­aged to be a place that you could tarry as well as toil. Why must a gar­den only be for work and production?

Per­son­ally, I believe a gar­den should be as much for plea­sure as for pro­duce. (You can see more of my gar­den here.)


Finally, I see NOT ONE SINGLE PLACE TO SIT in her gar­den. Surely she must have a lawn chair stashed some­where that she drags out when the pho­tog­ra­phers go home, right? And you know I value a place to sit in a gar­den.

Too bad about Can­ti­toe Cor­ners. With Martha’s tal­ent, money and hoards of help, her gar­den could have been some­thing to rival the gar­dens of the likes of George Wash­ing­ton and Thomas Jefferson.

I’m sorry so say, Martha has let me down.

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  • cloverann says:

    No bench?!? Surely she must want to sit and admire the rig­or­ously geo­met­ric rows? I would.
    I anx­iously await Martha’s comments…

  • Melanie says:

    I had that mag­a­zine in my hands today, I’m glad I didn’t buy it after all.

    Nope, that gar­den didn’t inspire me at all, there are so many lovely potagers out there that are pro­duc­tive and lovely to look at, at the same time.

    As for the fence, well, I’ve been post­ing about fenc­ing all week, YUCK!

  • Kylee says:

    Wow. I’m dis­ap­pointed, too. I really enjoy Martha and I too feel she could have done much bet­ter than this.

  • kate says:

    Inter­est­ing to see what Mme Stew­art is up to these days. I never read mag­a­zines so miss out on all of these things. (I’d rather read blogs)

  • It does look like a production-oriented gar­den. Even more like a test gar­den. If you’d like to see a veg­etable gar­den of color that was designed as much for enjoy­ment as veg­eta­bles, please visit my post on Villandry:

  • I agree, that is one bor­ing gar­den. Rows? No seat­ing? Geez, even with my lack of style, I know enough to have a place to sit and to mix it up a bit. She could do a whole lot bet­ter with her min­ions and money.

  • Angela says:

    Oh please…how much of the gar­den­ing is Martha even doing? You know there’s a mas­sive team of peo­ple keep­ing all that up.

  • I was def­i­nitely dis­ap­pointed too — I look to Martha for cov­etable lovlies and this reg­i­men­tal gar­den just wasn’t up to snuff. I wish she had men­tioned who she (I mean her staff) might be feed­ing — I would like it bet­ter if she was effi­ciently pro­vid­ing for 10 women’s shel­ters or 5 soup kitchens. And seat­ing in gar­den like that? Per­ish the thought. No sit­ting down on the job! (Besides, there’s no shade.)

  • Curtis says:

    Surely every­one has some sort of sit­ting in a gar­den. I might not have a gar­den bench in my veg­gie garden(something I would like to change this year) but at least I have some chairs and a bench in my front gar­den. I even have 2 lawn chairs stashed in my gar­den shed for sit­ting and enjoy­ing the veggies.

  • jodi says:

    I’m not a Martha basher either…I just don’t care about her highs and lows one way or another. This is sim­ply a bor­ing gar­den, as you say, and you give a thought­ful cri­tique of it. And like oth­ers, I won­der what she’ll do with all the pro­duce. Per­haps make origami swans out of cab­bage leaves? Nap­kin rings braided from the roots of toma­toes? The mind boggles.

  • Diana says:

    Ditto — I have the mag­a­zine and won­dered about that huge metal fence. Not attrac­tive or in keep­ing with her nor­mal sense of style at all. As for her sit­ting in the garden…do you really imag­ine she ever “sits” at all? I’m not sure she even sleeps with all she squeezes into her life. Your pho­tos of the Wash­ing­ton gar­den are beau­ti­ful — I love the fence, espe­cially. My gar­den fence is hideous com­pared to that, but it WILL be pretty when I’m done with it! There is paint­ing and hang­ing of plants and doo dads in its future!

  • It’s very drab…maybe the weather was not in the photographer’s favour?

  • David Perry says:

    Robin, when you’re right, you’re right.
    Nicely stated case. And Jodi, the pic­ture your words con­jured up: “Nap­kin rings braided from the roots of toma­toes…” Priceless!

  • I’m glad to hear there’s some­one else out there who’s *not* anti-Martha. But I agree whole heart­edly with your assess­ment of her gar­den. I can under­stand when some­one has to make a bud­get deci­sion (like on the fence)–but Martha not only has the cash, her whole “thing” is doing things beau­ti­fully. So my only reac­tion is, “Wha???” And yes, I too, would like to know where all that food is going.
    ~Angela :-)

  • You folks really are mak­ing me laugh here. For a bunch of folks who don’t claim to be Martha bash­ers, we’re doing a pretty good job on her garden!

    Maybe one of us should write a let­ter to the edi­tor and ask what she’s doing with all that food. I mean, a gal can only each so much zuc­chini. I’m curi­ous to know who she’s shar­ing it with.

    Robin at Bumblebee

  • ewa says:

    Thank you for bring­ing it up. I think its a shame on Martha to present gar­den like this. Many do not like her, but I believe that many try to fol­low — in such case don’t you think there is kind of pub­lic respon­si­bil­ity? or maybe I am too idealistic?

  • Kate says:

    Totally agree with you about Martha. I was one of the first sub­scribers to her orig­i­nal mag­a­zine way back when and loved it. I’m not the gar­dener you are, Robin, but agree that Martha has a lot of strong points. But this gar­den endeavor is rather fruitless.

    I would like one of those origami swans made of the cab­bage leaves, though. Just for posterity’s sake …

  • Nan says:

    Great post­ing! I may be the lone fan of that gar­den. :<) I actu­ally like those north to south rows. This is the way all gar­dens used to look, though not so big of course! Now there are lots of dif­fer­ent ways of gar­den­ing from wide rows to sep­a­rate plots inside boards. There are beau­ti­ful designs and paths, but when it comes right down to it, I like a veg­etable gar­den that is orderly and in rows. And I even found the fence appeal­ing, if indeed it is keep­ing out deer and rab­bits. Hap­pily, I don’t have any prob­lems with them but those who do must suf­fer such dis­cour­age­ment. As for sit­ting, I have a cou­ple chairs next to the veg gar­den, but my relax­ation sit­ting is more in the flower gar­dens. My guess is that Martha’s flower areas are quite dif­fer­ent, but I could be very wrong.

  • i love your gar­den. thanks for shar­ing its photos.

  • wow. now, i want to have my own garden. 😀

  • me too. i hope i woulf do good.

  • I’m so incred­i­bly dis­ap­pointed in Martha.
    Why did she take the inex­pen­sive way and use a mid­dle class style metal fence.
    Shame, shame shame. She should of opted and had the same fence the George Washington’s slaves made from him, that by cur­rent day con­struc­tion esti­mat­ing stan­dards would cost over $ 200.oo per foot to build.
    what a waste.

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