The Good-for-Nothing Garden

Coverage in The New York Times… I admit it; I feel exposed in an uncomfortable way. But as a friend was kind enough to point out to me at dinner Monday night, “Jim, you’re not the center of the universe.” So click on this link and you’ll go to a story about me and my garden. I’d use The New York Times photo, but they might sue me.

By the way, you’re invited to my Garden Conservancy Open Days on this Saturday, October 19, 10 am to 4 pm.

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41 thoughts on “The Good-for-Nothing Garden

  1. James,
    I think I prefer the Slideshow title: A Prairie of the Imagination. The photographs, BTW, are stunning illustrations of end of the season. The one from inside the house is a view not often seen. My wife says “do something that scares you every day”. You are good for Thursday. You may feel exposed right now, but the take away was: there is this really interesting garden in NJ that can be visited this weekend and the gardener has a blog that is worthy of a look. Not many gardens get that nod of validation in the NYTimes.
    Congratulations on a garden made well. Other people are noticing. My favorite quote today about your garden was on Billy Martin’s blog: “Few modern gardens come within a bulls roar of this blot on the landscape”. That is high praise. Enjoy the Open Days. Wish I could be there!

    1. Thanks, Michael. I like the shock value of The Good-for-Nothing Garden. I do wish the photos had captured more about the spatial aspects of the garden, its structure, the paths, but I suppose plant portraits are more appropriate for a newspaper readership, which by definition must be very generalist. I also thank you for your wife’s challenge: do something that scares you every day. Right, I’m good for Thursday.

    2. Michael, I particularly like ‘A Prairie of the Imagination.’ too! The running title a wee bit ‘Its really only a garden and not art’ throw away stuff..but no matter its a fine bit of writing by Mr T!
      This is way more than a garden and that is why I have stuck with it all these is the closest equation to a modern ‘Renaissance’ view of the world through plant usage. That is my take on JGs vision for today…… Why am I continually reminded of New Yorks Lou Reeds song There is No Time from the great
      New York’ album. Enough!

  2. I noticed the in picture of your Japanese maple that it looks like it has mildew. I’m in CT and all my little Japanese maples look like that. I never noticed it before. Maybe it was the wet spring although it didn’t show until about a month ago.

  3. Sharing the magic of nature is our goal the Prairie Garden Trust, a nature garden in central Missouri. You shared it in words in an earlier blog:
    “… a sense of joyfulness, a kind of translucent singing in the air”

    I love that description. I captures the lifting spirit of moving through the light and shadow, of gazing at a reaching old white oak or sitting with stillness of lilies and zip of dragonflies at the edge of a pond.
    Looking forward to more of your photos and words.

  4. Jim:
    Congrats! The newspaper of record has genuflected to a wonderful wild garden and has underscored the shy determinism of its poetic creator. The curious and the knowledgeable will flock to your quiet, reflective retreat this weekend. Wish we could come.

    rolf and norman

  5. A wonderful article — not a puff piece, but actually thoughtfully written in a way that gets what is hard to capture about your idiosyncratic garden. Jim and I are thinking of coming back to visit Federal Twist on Saturday. Having seen it in June I am eager to experience the autumn changes. It’s a long day trip for us from CT but doable, and if you could arrange nice weather we’ll be there!

    1. Laurrie, I agree with you that Michael Tortorello’s article was right on spot. Far more in depth than a typical magazine article. I’m certainly fortunate that he chose to write about my garden. I’d welcome seeing you and Jim (who identified my Tupelo) again. It’s lost almost all its leaves, which were orange, not red. Do please check the weather carefully. I know it’s a really long drive.

  6. Hi James, I enjoyed the NYT article. I’ve just had a good day – I’ve been up to town (London) to The Garden Museum, have you ever been there? They currently have an exhibition of Dan Pearson’s work. It was a very small exhibition but totally absorbing. I feel like I spent the morning with Dan, which can only be a good thing!

  7. James, I currently live in El Salvador and am desperately missing October. I have a tiny backyard in a compound of small homes, and we have a gardener named Sebastian. In trying to make my backyard resemble a natural jungle I am trying to persuade Sebastian to let some things grow beyond his natural instinct to whack them back. My main rule is to never argue with a man who is holding a machete!
    I will enjoy October vicariously in your magnificent photographs and in your thoughtful and ingenious design. And I will visit Federal Twist (online) often.

    Muchas Gracias!

  8. what a poignant quote: “I don’t care that much about flowering,” he said. “I’m much more into dead plants and seed pods” — or rattling calyxes that look as if they might contain goblin teeth. If this is a prairie, it is a prairie of the imagination.”
    me too – will try my best to visit on Sat!

  9. We are Delaware Township neighbors but only because of the Times article do I now know of you, your blog and your garden! I look forward to meeting you tomorrow, thank you for opening yourself and your garden.

  10. Dear Phil and Jim,

    We are the grateful beneficiaries of Jim’s gardening skill. We bought your beautiful house on Carlton Ave. in 1999. We’ve tried our best to keep as much of your work as possible, although there have been some mishaps (the worst was when we hired someone to do a spring clean up and returned to find out that he had pulled out all the pachysandra!). Both dogwoods are doing fine, especially the one in back.

    Hope you’re doing well.

    Jake and Shauna Braun

    1. Jake,
      I’s hard to believe we left that house 15 years ago. Do you still have the fine cut-leaf ivy on the wall on the Dekalb side? Is the Trumpet vine still climbing to the roof?

  11. I think what I like best about your garden is the wildness of it. The grasses seem unrestrained, even feral, as if they lived in a meadow. And your pathways seem almost accidental. The, you run across a bench, perfectly placed, and you realize nothing is as accidental as you thought. I love the little reflecting pool and the nobby sphere. I also love that you allow us a stroll through your garden even this late in the season when leaves are crinkling with age. I’m going to don my winter coat and go for a walk in my own garden…

  12. It was a terrific article….not at all bad exposure at all. Congratulations. I wish the NYT did more articles on gardens, like in the days when Anne Raver wrote regularly.

  13. I would love to see the end of the “lawn” as we know it. Think of all those suburban plots each different but needing to work out some harmony.

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