Outdoors

Get Inspired By Ellen Zachos' Garden

Ellen Zachos owns Acme Plant Stuff in New York City. She also teaches at the New York Botanical Garden, has published several garden books and is currently writing a book on foraging in your back yard. She blogs at Down and Dirty Gardening.
 
1. Why do you garden?
I garden because it's the only thing I've ever done that I love as much as performing. I want to do work that demands 100% of me, that engages me both physically and mentally, that I look forward to doing every morning, that exhausts and fulfills me. I don't have kids to put through college and I'm comfortable with self-employment, despite the seasonal income fluctuations, lack of pension plan, and expensive self paid health insurance. The work is fulfilling on so many levels; it's both art and science and when you add the business aspect you get a little math in there, too. I garden because I love it.
 
2. Who or what inspired you to garden?
My friend Mark got me started with indoor plants when we were on the road with the First National Tour of Les Miz (my first career was on Broadway, in musical theater). But I like to think gardening was in my genes.
 
3. What was the first plant you grew?
A Spathiphyllum (peace lily).
 
4. How often do you garden?
Every freakin' day of my life.
 
5. What is your USDA zone?
I have no garden in Manhattan, but my country garden is in Shohola, PA, which is zone 5.
 
6. What size is your garden?
On two-and-a-half acres, I have about 750 square feet in three different beds. That's a small garden but it's bigger than my NYC apartment!
 
7. What plant has most disappointed you?
I'm disappointed that I can't grow some of the things I love because of the hordes of voracious deer that graze in my garden. Fortunately I can grow that stuff on NYC rooftops, where I have not yet seen a single deer.
 
8. What plant has made you happiest?
Right now I'm especially happy with the bearded and Japanese iris. Fragrant, beautiful, and even the gray green foliage is attractive when the flowers stop blooming. Triple threat.
 
9. What do you love about your garden right now?
Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'...multiple shimmering mounds of it.
 
10. What do you feed your garden?
I don't. I know. I'm bad.
 
11. What would you like to grow, that you can't?
Delphinium...I don't have the right conditions for them but I think blue delphiniums are the most beautiful flowers.
 
12. Food, flowers, native or ornamental?
All of the above and in combination. I especially like double duty plants that are both ornamental and edible. And I know this isn't PC to say, but I don't really care if a plant is native. Sure, I like natives, but a good plant is a good plant, wherever it comes from.
 
13. Most inspiring garden writer, thinker, blogger, personality?
Eudora Welty, Elizabeth Lawrence, Thalassa Cruso
 
14. What plants do you dislike?
I think dislike is a little strong...unless we're talking about poison ivy. But I'm not a fan of roses; they don't do it for me.
 
15. Would you like more sun or more shade?
Neither. Don't hate me but I have an excellent balance of sun and shade.
 
16. Where is your favorite public garden?
My favorite public garden is without doubt Chanticleer in Wayne, PA. The gardeners combine deep plant knowledge with design creativity and whimsy. It's always surprising and stimulating.
 
By 66 Square Feet (Photo Credit: Marie Viljoen)

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