New This Month

Take A Walk Through "Martha's Flowers" in Her New Book

Martha Stewart has been planting and growing blooms since she was a little girl. In her new book, "Martha's Flowers," out February 27, she shares decades of gardening wisdom, along with more than 100 creative and inventive arrangements by Kevin Sharkey, her longtime friend and colleague. 

 

Photographs reprinted from "MARTHA’S FLOWERS: A Practical Guide to Growing, Gathering, and Enjoying" by Martha Stewart with Kevin Sharkey. Copyright © 2018 by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. To be published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC on February 27, 2018.

There is no lack of flowers for arranging and enjoying at Cantitoe Farm, my 150-acre property in Katonah, New York, and no shortage of incredible opportunities to grow more of everything. I have planted masses of my favorite kinds: a giant bed of pink-colored peonies; a very large perennial garden filled with all of my favorite lilies, poppies, and irises, among hundreds of others; two long gardens filled with many kinds of lilac shrubs; and borders of hydrangeas, Japanese maple trees, clematis, shade plants, and tulip beds.

Over time, I have become more interested in variety, more picky with color choices, and more critical of each and every thing I have nurtured, wanting each plant to be healthy, each flower to be usable, and the gardens to be a constant source of inspiration to others, notably my friend and colleague Kevin Sharkey.

As we walked through my gardens years ago, it became clear to both of us that I was the grower, and he was the cutter and arranger. It was as if I wrote the music, and he wrote the lyrics. We started our collaboration at Turkey Hill in Westport, Connecticut, and then continued it in East Hampton, New York; in Katonah; and in Seal Harbor, Maine. Kevin knows my gardens almost as well as I do, and he knows exactly what will look good in the planned location and what will not. I trust him with scissors like no other, except for my daughter, Alexis. When he ventures into the landscape to pick and combine what I have grown into coherent “wholes,” he creates beautiful bouquets that fit the spaces allocated, the season, and the occasion.

The arrangements in this book resulted from our close planning and envisioning— and luck—in growing spectacular blooms that combine well with one another, or with foliage, to bedazzle a room or call one’s eyes to attention.

We are thrilled with the result of our labor, and hope you will be, too. And my motto for this book remains the same as in my first gardening book: Pour l’avenir, from the French, meaning “for the future.”

Martha & Kevin

These two have been collaborating for more than 20 years. Kevin, who was educated at Rhode Island School of Design and began his career at the decorating firm Parish-Hadley, started working for Martha as a style assistant, and is now EVP, executive director of design of the Martha brand. “I’ve always enjoyed Kevin’s company, and how knowledgeable he is on so many things,” says Martha.

Amazing Azaleas

“Of all the shrubs that flower in spring, rhododendrons—especially azaleas—provide some of the most brilliant displays and can thrive in a variety of conditions,” says Martha. Kevin agrees: “I used to think of them as filler flowers, but they’re at their best when they’re the center of attention. They add a little spark and fizz to denser arrangements of flowers, like peonies.”

Poppies

“Poppies have wide single or double cups, with very thin petals that can be fringed, feathered, or splotched. Their palette includes all shades of white, purple, pink, and red, as well as glowing hues, like my favorite, a dark-orange Oriental poppy. The annual varieties often seed themselves the following year, and the perennials, if well-tended, can be expected to live a good, long life.”—Martha

“This arrangement celebrates the flower’s deeper, darker, more textured nature. I grouped boldpurple ‘Lauren’s Grape’ and ‘Black Swan’ on one side, and lighter lavender ‘Sugar Plum’ and pink ‘French Flounce’ on the other, with a rich-red focal point of ‘Drama Queen’. I finished the look with sprigs of smoke-bush leaves and blooms.”—Kevin

Expert Advice

For successive flowering, sow seeds repeatedly from early spring well into late summer. Or, if you’re in a mild climate, begin sowing in fall for early-spring germination.

Lilacs

Punctuate a lush display of lilacs with a large and shapely leaf, like this Astilboides tabularis. It adds asymmetry and dimension. Placing the earthenware pot on a pedestal of wood offers even more.

Alliums

“Alliums, or ornamental onions, are one of nature’s eccentric beauties. These unusual, spherical, starry flowers on long, skinny stems can add striking bursts of color and texture to any garden or arrangement. I also love the look of the dry flowers in the fall, so we often leave them in the garden until they begin to deteriorate.”—Martha

“I staggered the heights of these ‘Mount Everest’ stems to give this display a free-form look and to keep the blooms from canceling one another out. Foliage, like these Rodgersia aesculifolia leaves, softens the bouquet and draws the eye to areas that would otherwise be left bare.”—Kevin

Expert Advice

When growing alliums in the garden, don’t remove the leaves after they flower— no matter how unsightly they are—until they have completely browned. They supply energy to the bulbs for next year’s crop.

Sunflowers

“These flowers demonstrate a particularly robust character, and that is why I like to plant many along sunny fences and toward the backs of large gardens. Not only are they perfect for cutting, but when left in the garden, they can ripen into food for wild birds. Many sunflowers are annuals, but they often leave seeds, which can grow the following year into healthy plants.”—Martha

“It’s hard to imagine this vintage Albany slip-glaze pitcher holding anything but sunflowers. I left a few leaves on the stems of this mixed bouquet grown at Skylands, in Maine, to provide welcome touches of bright green.”—Kevin

Expert Advice

Sunflowers bloom even more profusely when regularly deadheaded. Martha attaches some of the cut and dried sunflower heads to garden fences for the birds to eat.