Martha’s Harlem Garden: Not That Great

Last weekend, I made a pilgrimage to Martha Stewart’s new Garden for Living. It’s across the street from Mount Sinai, which also happens to be where the Domestic Diva’s new Center for Living, dedicated to healthy aging, has laid roots. Martha’s typically tasteful signage pointed the way to the grounds of the Carver public housing complex where, according to the September issue of her magazine, the plot would “promote gardening enthusiasm in the community.”

Martha needn’t have worried—gardening enthusiasm is already in full bloom at Carver, especially in the person of 56-year-old “farm girl” Malinda Futrell, recipient of a Citizens Committee award in 1986 for her work establishing the 6th Street at Avenue B Community Garden. She’s been gardening around the city nonstop for the past 20 years.

On the day of my visit, Malinda was “cleaning and greening” in one of the half-dozen gardens she tends adjacent to Martha’s plot. The Garden for Living was locked, awaiting arrival of benches that Malinda said “were lost in Germany, coming from Spain.” But since Malinda is one of a committee of eight who will maintain the garden on behalf of Ms. Stewart, she had the key and kindly let me in.

I’d expected something special but, hmmm, the plant selection contained the usual suspects: hydrangea, hosta, phlox, some trendy Verbena bonariensis, ferns and box, all arranged in undulating borders. At the far end of the approximately half-acre plot, a wide walkway (where presumably the benches will go) dead-ended at a dreary brick building. The garden design was, well, so ordinary—it needed something to make it stand out given the confines of the towering complex surrounding it. I’m no Le Nôtre, but a pergola would have transformed this garden. Or what about a couple of tuteurs, like those she had made for East Hampton, or better yet, a water feature? A small fountain or birdbath would do the trick.

Martha, I can’t lie: You’ve let me down. Don’t you think we deserve a little East Hampton on the Upper East Side?


The Garden for Living is at Madison and 100th Street Martha’s Harlem Garden: Not That Great