Martha Stewart's top tips for a successful garden

In the January issue of Gardens Illustrated we visit writer, TV personality and garden enthusiast Martha Stewart's private garden. Here she gives her top tips for creating a successful garden and recommends some of the best gardens to visit in the USA. 


In the gardens of her New York State farm, Martha Stewart has created a series of spaces that reflect her passion for learning and experimentation. Here she offers her gardening tips for creating a successful garden and recommends gardens to the visit in US.

1 Get to know your soil. It's worth getting a comprehensive soil analysis of every corner of your property as the soil environment can change drastically from one part of your garden to another. If you're thinking of moving it may be worth checking the soils of the property before you buy.

2 Use groundcover plants, shrubs and trees to form the back bone of your garden. Make your herbaceous borders small enough to maintain the space properly and help it sing.

3 Buy from as many nurseries as possible to get the widest range of interesting plants, and don't be tempted just to look at the pictures in the catalogue, be sure to read the catalogue descriptions as well.

4 Be curious and experiment. Although Martha has favourite roses and irises, she always orders new cultivars each year. Seek out the diversity that exists within each group of plants, whether that be bearded iris or maples.


5 Minimise the size of your lawn. Not only are lawns always high maintenance, but they are not great for the environment, their maintenance often requiring vast amounts of water, pesticides and herbicides.

6 Mulch, using whatever local source of mulch you have available. This will reduce both the amount of time you spend weeding and the amount of water you need to use to keep your plants healthy - all while enriching your soil.

7 If you make a mistake rectify it and carry on. Too many of us live with our bad decisions in the garden because they cost us money.

8 Cherish your garden and the land it encompasses and attempt to preserve it for the next generation of gardeners.


Recommended US gardens to visit

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn, New York
Based in 52 acres, just a stone's throw from Manhattan, the gardens are home to the Steinhardt Conservatory and many themed gardens throughout.The garden holds over 14,000 taxa of plants.

Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens, Pasadena, California
The 120 acre garden boasts one of the world's best collections of cacti and succulents, with more than 5,000 species represented. There is also a Japanese and a Chinese Garden, along with a gallery holding significant collections of American and European art.

Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
The 1,077 acre estate of Pierre du Pont, the Longwood Gardens are one of the finest horticultural display gardens in the USA in the midst of the beautiful Brandywine Creek Valley. With conservatories and extensive outdoor plantings, the gardens are open year round with an extensive educational component.

Lotusland, Montecito, California
Based near Santa Barbara, this fantastic 37 acre garden is the historic estate of Polish opera singer GannaWalska, with significant collections of cacti, cycads and ferns. The Blue Garden and Water Garden remain favourites for all visitors.

New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York
The USA's premier botanical garden and educational institution on 250 acres, with extensive plantings representing an enormous breadth of temperate, tropical and arid flora.


This article was taken from a longer feature in the January 2018 issue of Gardens Illustrated (256).

Words Daniel J Hinkley

Photographs Claire Takacs





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