Ten MInutes With Carolyne Roehm
The talented writer, philanthropists, and designer now has moved her skills into the garden
Carolyne Roehm has been a fashion designer, an interior designer, a gardener, and is masterful at gift-wrapping. Most recently she has taken up photography as shown in her latest book Flowers. While she maintains an apartment in New York, she spends her time at her home Weatherstone in Sharon with her ten dogs. We sat down with her to talk flowers, photos, and more.
Growing up in Kirksville, Missouri, what career did you dream of pursuing? I wanted to be a princess; failing that, I wanted to be a fashion designer.
How did you get to New York? With $600 and five suitcases of clothes. I’d gotten a job working with designer Victor Costa. When I got there he was traveling and no one knew anything about my arrival. So, they had me filling orders for stores. I left after my second day and found a job at a polyester sportswear company—not exactly a giant step forward.
How did you finally break into the fashion business? I got a chance to interview with Oscar de la Renta, who I had dreamed of working for. He hired me and I was with him for ten years until I started my own fashion line.
Where did you develop your love of flowers and gardens? My grandmother lived 15 miles from where I grew up, so I spent a lot of time with her and in her gardens. I’d play florist, make corsages, decorate hats, and watch what she did with plants. I dedicated my first book to her.
How long have you lived at Weatherstone? Thirty years. When we bought the house, there was a parking area in front of the house. I didn’t want to look out at parked cars; I wanted to see a garden. We tore that out and put in my first flower bed.
How are your gardens laid out? Ideally there should be a sense of going from one space to another as the season progresses, but since I’m very much a flower person, my focus has always been more spring than summer. I plant lots of bulbs and have two months of endless flowers.
Do you ever change your mind after you’ve planted something? A lot. Other people move furniture. I move gardens.
Your first book, A Passion for Flowers, extolled the beauty of carnations. Do they have a special significance for you? In France I saw such beautiful carnations. We do such terrible things to them here—we dye them blue and tie balloons to them. There are no bad flowers—only people who do bad things to them.
When people visit your gardens, what’s the most commonly asked question? What do I do about the deer. I’ve found these pods that have dried blood in them which seem to be effective. But the dogs think they’re toys.
Do you grow vegetables as well? I do and this year I’m using heritage seeds that haven’t been engineered. I’m trying to be as organic as possible.
Do you ever sit and relax? When I do have down time, I read—I am a total espionage junkie. And I love listening to books on tape as I work. —Joseph Montebello