ISSUE 21  |  On the Lawn

The Cultivated Life: Introducing Gardenista

May 22, 2012 9:30 PM

BY Michelle Slatalla

Remodelista started as a group of friends sharing ideas about remodeling. Now, imagine if that same group of friends headed outdoors—and started gardening.

That’s the premise of Gardenista, where we’ll be covering all kinds of gardens—ours and yours. We’ll take you to rooftops and backyards and fire escapes and country estates and rent-a-plots on the outskirts of cities. Think of Gardenista as a sourcebook for cultivated living, with suggestions for everything from exterior paint colors to outdoor dining tables to rollaway garage doors.

Gardens matter. There’s been a climate change in the way we think about what it means to live outdoors. In Marin County, all of our friends seem to be raising chickens. In Brooklyn, we’re noticing green roofs seemingly everywhere. And in London, where there is a ban on hose pipes, Christine is researching drought-resistant plants for her new garden.

More of our conversations these days are about our gardens. Sarah, who lives in the Napa Valley, presides over two vegetable beds (she’s awaiting the arrival of the season’s first arugula). In Brooklyn Heights, Francesca is experimenting with potted trees and shrubs in different shades and textures on her balcony. Alexa, a former floral designer, studied botany. Julie wants to learn how not to kill her herbs (“Even my mint refuses to thrive,” she says, a situation that has alarming implications for mojitos as summer approaches).

700-2012louesa-flwrarrangements2012louesaflwrs1261Above: Photo by Aya Brackett for Remodelista.

As for me, I learned everything important in a garden. From my grandmother, I learned the right way to organize color in a perennial bed, and from my father’s garden, I learned to break all those rules. With a surname that my relatives insist means “lettuce farmer” in Polish, I have come to see my gardening tendencies as a kind of destiny.

At Remodelista, we love tomatoes on the fire escape as much as Vita Sackville-West’s white garden; we believe the arugula Sarah is growing will taste better than any she could buy. We are comparing outdoor LED lanterns and debating whether to invest in backyard beehives. We love to pull weeds (or, in my case, to pay the children a nickel per dandelion), and we love to nap in hammocks. Before we make a decision about which heirloom lima beans to plant, we obsessively research it.

700_2012louesa-flwrarrangements2012louesaflwrs1177Above: Photograph by Aya Brackett.

And now we’re thrilled to be having the conversation with you, too, to open a forum where our readers can share gardening stories (and queries) with us—please, tip us off if you find a useful new tool or come up with a strategy for keeping the deer away from your roses.

We’ve always believed the best advice comes from like-minded friends. Or from friends who, while they may quibble a little with each other over the best plants to attract butterflies (sorry, Alexa, but I will never stop defending liatris), agree on the big things. We all want the butterflies.


Above: Michelle Slatalla, Gardenista editor. Photograph by Clementine Quittner.