Ten Minutes With Tovah Martin
Master gardener and writer reveals her green thumb
Tovah Martin has been a lover of flowers since she was a child and got her first packet of marigold seeds. Today she is a highly regarded author and garden expert. She was awarded the Sarah Chapman Francis Medal for outstanding literary achievement and received a gold medal from The
Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Her home in Roxbury is surrounded by gardens—and very little grass.
The marigold seeds started you on the garden path, but had you any other aspirations? As a young child in Bucks County, I thought it would be fun to be a butterfly, which seemed perfectly logical to me. But after sowing those first seeds, I was hooked on watching things grow up out of the ground.
What got you started on the path to writing? I began writing about plants while studying herbs at a local green house. I submitted a piece to The New York Times. They basically told me to get lost. But I did get published in several horticulture magazines. Years later, Joan Lee Faust asked me to write for the Times and I felt as if I had finally made it.
Your favorite part of the gardening process? I love to plant seeds and I love to weed.
How do you plan out a new garden? I will sometimes sketch out a concept. But I usually go out and walk the space and determine how many plants I’m going to need to make my plan work.
Which do you prefer working with—
vegetables or flowers? I have both. Perennial gardens come back year after year, so unless you pull them out they’ll always be the same. With vegetables, you are starting fresh every year and can correct your mistakes.
Has the farm-to-table movement changed the way people garden? Definitely—vegetable gardening has gotten a new respect because of the need to nurture our land and grow our own produce.
Your favorite public garden? I tend to change my opinion based on what I’ve seen recently. But I think the High Line Garden in New York City is spectacular and a great inspiration for me. Its designer, Piet Oudolf is a genius.
Your advice for a beginning gardener? Start small and put in a garden that works for you, don’t be concerned with following trends or taking on too much at one time.
What do you like best about living here? I’ve always thought that the most beautiful and unique gardens were in Litchfield County and I wanted to be a part of that community. I love the Litchfield Garden club—its members are full of wonderful ideas and always have the best speakers.
Do you have any plans for new gardens this year? Always. It’s an addiction—I can’t stop doing it. I open my door and any patch of grass that isn’t planted is up for grabs. Grass is not safe around me. Winter is the worst time for me because that’s when I dream up all my grand ideas.