Beloved fashion icon Carolyne Roehm shares lessons learned in her 34-year venture to turn cornfields into a floral landscape of orchards, formal gardens, and tranquil outdoor rooms.
“If I fancy a flower, I try to enjoy it in as many ways as I can.”
By Mona Moore
Style expert Carolyne Roehm relishes fond memories of gardening at her grandmother’s side. She spent long summer days with her hands in Missouri earth, digging up carrots, watering herbs, and avoiding thorns as she clipped fragrant roses. She created makeshift vases for zinnias and dahlias by trimming off the tops of milk cartons, and she ate tomatoes straight from the vine, savoring the taste of the soil and sun that formed them.
Grandmother Beaty provided daily lessons in the art of horticulture in what Carolyne lovingly refers to as her small Midwestern Eden. Those lessons continue to guide Carolyne’s gardening ventures. She still plants marigolds to ward off pests and fills her garden with the squash and asparagus she learned to cultivate so long ago.
She shares her gardening experiences—the good ones and the bad—in her latest book, At Home in the Garden, weaving her horticultural triumphs and tribulations through 300 lush pages of her seasonal photographs.
Time spent in gardens feeds Carolyne’s creative soul, offering her a sense of well-being and sufficiency. She finds inspiration in the way the sun dances through a field of flowers and the patterns fallen leaves make on the roof of her glasshouse. “When I look at a beautiful poppy, I instantly see pleated silk taffeta fabric.”
Carolyne put her gardening on hold as she rose through the world of fashion, but soon found that the two passions had plenty in common.
“I designed clothes for 22 years, and gardening is so similar to fashion. Basically, you’re dealing with texture, line, and color. You’re creating something visually,” she says.
Much of At Home in the Garden covers Carolyne’s 59-acre countryside retreat, Weatherstone. She bought the property with the intention of working the farmland and watching it flourish. Over the years, Carolyne photographed her progress, turning cornfields into ponds and fashioning orchards and gardens from an unyielding landscape. Other improvements included building her beloved studio library, a space to store her collection of gardening and design books, to sketch, and to plan her garden projects. The studio became a tranquil place where she could immerse herself in learning what thrived in her neck of the woods.
At the first sign of spring, Carolyne opens all her windows, takes picnics along her ponds, and plans lavish dinner parties on her veranda. “If you like to entertain—and believe me, I do—the garden invests even the simplest get-together with a wonderful sense of occasion,” she says.
Carolyne says she gets strength and nourishment from nature and the time she spends in her gardens. Her book will offer readers the same. “Whether it’s a little terrace, a small yard, or a lawn, hopefully this will inspire them,” she says. “[Gardening] is such a wonderful way to self-express.”
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