Basket plants for the garden


            If you
ever thumb through the pages of a “shelter magazine” such as House Beautiful
or House & Garden, you will see photographs that contain very few human
beings and lots of flowers and plants.  This focus on greenery is not
restricted to the one or two feature articles that such publications generally
devote to gardening.  Growing things are everywhere in magazines these
days.  In Grosse Pointe, Swedish Ivy drapes itself langorously over the top
shelf a glass etager, while in Boston an arrangement of Gerbera daisies in an
Art Deco vase sits perched on a tufted ottoman.  Meanwhile a stand of
ornamental bamboo shoots up from an old copper boiler in a corner of a New York
penthouse terrace.

exactly the same in designer showhouses, which after all, are like a shelter
magazine come to life.  To walk through a showhouse is to be lost in a
fantasy world of eclectic furniture, faux finishes, and fancy trims, all
combined in a variety of probable and improbable ways.  The most inspiring
thing about the whole effort is that all the art and artifice has been combined
for a good cause.  Showhouse visitors, who pay generously to see whether
chintz can actually coexist with leopard prints, are also supporting homeless
shelters, soup kitchens and the countless other charitable endeavors supported
by the sponsoring organizations.

            The other
day I went to the Brookwood Showhouse and Garden, a massive fundraising project
put on by the Junior League of Montclair-Newark.  Like everyone else, I was
impressed by the imaginative ways that various designers and artists had
transformed the vast phalanx of rooms in an Edwardian-era house.  Being a
passionate gardener, the thing that impressed me the most was the number of ways
in which the designers brought the outdoors in.  Horticulture collided
headlong with fashion, and the result was a showhouse full of botanical themes,
motifs, arrangements and accents.  Trends abounded and it was fun to pick
them out in each room.

            With two
orchid-theme books recently on the best-seller lists, it is no secret that
orchids are hotter than the rim of Mt. Kilauea.  They were everywhere at
Brookwood, with cattleyas, dendrobiums, cymbidiums and phaleonopsis accenting
almost every design scheme.  The most impressive orchid on display was a
forty year-old, purple-flowered specimen that was holding court in a downstairs
alcove.  Foxgloves and other flowers with orchid-like blooms added to the
total effect.

more exotic than the orchids was an arrangement of pitcher plant leaves that
filled a metal container in the first floor hall.  The heavily veined
leaves looked like marble, a perfect compliment to the faux finishes that
appeared throughout the house.  I suspected it before, but I know it
now–the carnivorous pitcher plant has clearly gained entry into the world of
high fashion.

            Not since
Oscar Wilde was pictured holding a drooping calla lily, has that South African
native been so popular.  At Brookwood calla lilies showed up in several
arrangements, as well as in the shape of two tall wire accent pieces in one of
the rooms.

and crafters have been known to go to great extremes with hot glue guns, and one
of this year’s hot-glued decorator accessories of choice is clearly the
styrofoam ball covered with dried botanical material.  These items,
enveloped in dried magnolia leaves or crushed lavender or desiccated moss are
generally mounded decoratively in bowls or containers.  They made
attractive accents in a couple of different places.

            One of the
designers took the garden theme to a higher level, turning a narrow second floor
bathroom into a darling potting shed.  The only thing that was left out of
the plan was a dumbwaiter to convey pots, seed trays and other equipment down to
garden level.  Maybe I just missed it.

            A whole
gallery worth of botanical prints adorned staircases, halls and walls, and of
course, there were many botanical motifs on rugs, draperies and wallcoverings.

            Just as
decorators at Brookwood brought the outside in, landscape designers incorporated
indoor elements in the various gardens.  One designer created a “room”
complete with a boxwood couch, fireplace and a checkerboard pattern floor of
alternating grass and bluestone squares.

horticultural fashion trends on display in the garden areas included the use of
culinary herbs in an ornamental setting, and the installation of a Victorian
mosaic-like bedding out scheme at the property’s carriage entrance.

the horticultural fashion trends at a showhouse is a bit like playing
“Where’s Waldo”.  The difference is, you’re playing for a good


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