Wednesday, 05 November 2008

Report from NYC: Kitchen gardens

Now that he really can begin measuring for new drapes in the White House, I wonder what style Barack Obama would choose to redecorate his new home for the next four years? Federalist hip? Mid-century modern?

There might be a more realistic chance of the exterior of the White House being overhauled. Michael Pollan recently wrote an open letter to the next president in an article for the Sunday New York Times’ Magazine advising him to plant a kitchen garden on the front lawn of the White House. Roger Doiron (below), founder of Kitchen Gardeners International, has strongly advocated for this as well.

Kitchen gardens are a growing trend in gardening. As Pollan says, a presidential vegetable garden would set a wonderful example of sustainable living and help wean America off an agricultural industry that is dependent on oil. Lucky for us design freaks, a kitchen garden is also an aesthetic statement.

Photo by Richard Felber for Domino

The haute veggie patch of none other than Oscar de la Renta was featured in Domino magazine in September last year. Take a look at a beautiful slide show of this Connecticut garden here.

Photo by Richard Felber for Domino

According to Domino, de la Renta's garden applies the principles of a formal flower garden: strong structure, strict geometry and colour-blocking of plants.

Photo by Richard Felber for Domino

And it's not all about what the stars can achieve either. The magazine also offers vegetable garden designs, such as the one below, to enable you to transform your humble backyard into a patch of designer dirt, as well as a guide to planting a potted vegetable garden.
A slightly more haphazard approach is taken by artist-turned-garden historian, Leslie Rose Close, the wife of artist Chuck Close. She has a thriving kitchen garden (below) at her home in Bridgehampton, New York, where she applies an artist's eye but leaves room for happy accidents.

Photo by Gordon M. Grant for the NYTimes

There is a memorable article about her garden in the New York Times. "I can't imagine anything more wonderful to do," she says . "It's spiritual, physical, intellectual, aesthetic, sensual. I feel tied to the basic process of life."

I know what she means. Although I'm a garden-less city-dweller, I recently spent a day harvesting spinach, lettuce and carrots in the greenhouse at the Stone Barns Farm (above) in Tarrytown, NY. There was something very novel and satisfying about gently pulling a carrot out of the silty earth, dusting off the soil and eating it right away. The farm supplies the on-site restaurant, Blue Hill Stone Barns, with fresh produce for its highly crafted cuisine.

Maybe Blue Hill chef Dan Barber should start thinking about a new gig as White House chef?

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