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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Garden and food writer Robin Ripley is co-author of Grocery Gardening. Her new book, Wisdom for Home Preservers, will be released later in 2014 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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