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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22 Responses to “Disappointed in Martha”

  1. cloverann Says:

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

  2. 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!

  3. Kylee Says:

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

  4. 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)

  5. Jim/ArtofGardening Says:

    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:

  6. Carol, May Dreams Gardens Says:

    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.

  7. 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.

  8. Kris at Blithewold Says:

    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.)

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. London Estate Agents Says:

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

  13. 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!

  14. Angela (Cottage Magpie) Says:

    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 :-)

  15. Robin a Bumblebee Says:

    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

  16. 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?

  17. 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 …

  18. 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.

  19. Durable fence Says:

    i love your gar­den. thanks for shar­ing its photos.

  20. deck construction Says:

    wow. now, i want to have my own gar­den. :D

  21. Tree removal Michigan Says:

    me too. i hope i woulf do good.

  22. Michelle Derviss Says:

    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.

Garden and food writer Robin Ripley is co-author of Grocery Gardening. Her new book, Wisdom for Home Preservers, is now available from Taunton Press. Bumblebee is about her life in rural Maryland, her garden, cooking, dogs and pet chickens. She also blogs about food and chickens at Eggs & Chickens. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for visiting.


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