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Garden Gallery: Martha Schwartz’s Avant Garden


I am a huge Martha Schwartz fan.  I will never forget the first (only) time that I met her/heard her speak.  It was at a Society of Garden Designers event where she was invited to speak.  She gave a fantastic presentation, but I suspect (besides her) I was probably one of the only other American in the room and she left me sinking in my seat — just a little.

When I lived abroad I frequently had this issue with being hyper aware of the behavior of people that I encountered from my own country.  I think it had something to do with feeling like an outsider and trying to fit in, (and also, to some extent, becoming assimilated enough that I saw things through different eyes) and when I was around other Americans I always felt their behavior reflected on me way more than was rational.  Anyway — Martha swore alot in the presentation.   I am not a prude when it comes to four letter words, but that day I cringed like crazy.  The whole thing makes me laugh now, but that day,  I thought surely the Brits in our company, with their better English, would be mortified. Perhaps they would run us both out of town.  But really no one minded — and they sure as hell didn’t give two thoughts about me. (ha!)  The thought of the whole scene and reliving my feelings makes me smile in amusement at myself and the admirable guts and unapologetic nature of Martha.

This garden has everthing I love about Martha’s work.  Bold strokes, interesting materials, and elements used in unexpected ways.

In order to see the whole slideshow of the entire garden, with the audio of Martha talking about the design, hop over to the Fine Gardening website.

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  1. Jenn says:

    Hmm. Love the colors. Love the concept.

    The execution makes me cold.

    I think I like my gardens more visually access able, and less work for viewing. I like surprises, yes, but every corner doesn’t need to be one.

    Plus, I was raised in a city, and all those hiding places set me on edge.

  2. Natalie says:

    We’re going to have to agree to disagree here. I would certainly call her a garden or landscape designer (which is more of an honor than some people I know are willing to give her). But she feels so very much like a performance artist to me. Her gardens and spaces aren’t about how people use them, they’re about making a statement about Martha Schwartz.

    Exhibit A for me is Jacob Javits Plaza. Very sparsely used because it’s designed to make a statement and not to be functional at all.

  3. Nell Jean says:

    It looks hot and airless to me.

  4. Denise says:

    I’m not sure who would invite this design home but I admire her fearlessness. Shadows and slag glass shadows are very cool. Not sure the nesting boxes concept comes through, I get more of a shadow box idea, and Luis Barragan sets a high standard where monolithic walls are concerned. But the goal of low maintenance was certainly achieved. Remember the uproar over her bagel garden?

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