Stephanie Cohen’s a piece of work. Because she’s not beholden to any nursery, plant group, or grower, she feels she’s obliged to tell it like it is. If a plant looks great, but it’s leggy and doesn’t bloom long, she’ll tell you it’s a dog and to avoid it, no matter the price. She believes that you don’t really know a plant till you’ve killed it at least once.
She was in town for two speaking engagements. One at a Lockwood’s Greenhouses and another as part of the National Buffalo Garden Festival. I was fortunate to have a picnic dinner at Lockwood’s on Friday night with her and other invited guests. She makes quite an impression with her blunt commentary on what’s going on in the gardening world and her glaringly bright pink nails, painted to match the color of the cover of her book, The Perennial Gardener’s Design Primer. She was also hawking her new book, The Nonstop Garden.
Her talk Friday night (The Flowers of Summer) was more of a stand up routine — self-deprecating and boldly honest about what summer flowers, or what cultivars are good, and which are crap. Basically, each slide shown had three variations of the same plant. One she would generally like for one reason or another (scent, color, vigorousness, longevity, etc.). Another she’d mention as a new release and tell why it’s different from those that came before, and not to buy new releases. And a third was generally a photo of a plant she had a story about — how bad it is, how it came to be named after her, or some other comedic routine she’s developed over the years. And don’t even get her started on heuchera…
About 120 people showed up for the event. Mid-week there were only 67 reservations. We were nervous. But there were plenty of people that showed up at the door. We were in the Nichols School Flickinger Performing Arts Center.
She dropped a few good gardening tips here and there — but not enough — and left me wanting more. Basically it comes down to trying to figure out what YOU like, finding plants that work in YOUR environment and everything else is negotiable — design “rules,” separating vegetables/flowers/herbs, most garden advice (even hers), and so on.
I gave her a ride to her hotel on Friday night and got to talk briefly about family things. She’s got grandkids in ballet (my daughter’s got a ballet recital coming up). She started out in college in English, intending to be a writer. Plants can’t read, so don’t trust labels. She couldn’t live with a garden that didn’t include basil. Stephanie’s daughter, a black thumb, wanted a plant she couldn’t kill — Stephanie briefly considered plastic, thought better of it, then gave her a succulent.
Elizabeth did a good interview she posted on GardenRant.com today. You can read that here.
Amy Stewart is here this weekend, 2 p.m. at the Buffalo Public Library. The event is free and open to the public. We’re looking forward to that as well.