A Glimpse into the Carefully Guarded World of Bunny Mellon

The New York Times described Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon as an amateur collector with a sure eye, great taste, and upper-class refinement. Architectural Digest called her self-assured in the way that often comes with enormous wealth. Labeled a connoisseur, philanthropist, gardener, and horticulturist by flower magazine, Bunny Mellon was crowned the true queen of green, and the high priestess of pruning and pleaching by Vanity Fair.

PHOTO: Looking through espaliered crabapple trees to the potting shed at the Mellons’ Oak Spring Farm in Virginia.
Looking through espaliered crabapple trees to the potting shed at the Mellons’ Oak Spring Farm in Virginia
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

Such is the mystique surrounding Bunny Mellon, an heiress who considered privacy her greatest luxury; an influential American landscape designer who rarely showcased her work; and a collector who could afford anything, but was known for acquiring only the things she loved.  

Historian and garden writer Mac Griswold will share her unique perspective on the carefully guarded world of Bunny Mellon during the upcoming Antiques, Garden & Design Show. Griswold forged a bond with Mellon, the mother of her close friend, Eliza, through their mutual love of gardening. Griswold’s lecture, “Green Grandeur: The Rarefied Simplicity of Bunny Mellon’s Garden Style,” will document the contributions the influential tastemaker made to home and garden design. Mellon is perhaps best known for designing the White House Rose Garden during the Kennedy administration, as well as the White House East Garden, and landscape features at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. Renowned architect I.M. Pei called her the most gifted landscape architect of her time.

Join us for Mac Griswold’s lecture on Saturday, April 18, at 11 a.m. Click here for tickets.

PHOTO: Mac Griswold
Mac Griswold
Photo © Sigrid Estrada

Mellon applied the same sense of scale and balance to her own properties, but these glories were rarely seen by outsiders. “Her gardens were like private kingdoms,” Griswold said. Griswold’s talk will take place at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 18, in Alsdorf Auditorium. Following the lecture, Griswold will sign copies of her latest book, The Manor: Three Centuries at a Slave Plantation on Long Island, a saga about slavery, emancipation, and racism in New England told through the history of a single piece of land and a grand old house. She is currently working on Nothing Should Be Noticed: The Life and Gardens of Bunny Mellon 1910–2014. The book’s title refers to one of the Mellon’s maxims. “She was all about ensemble,” Griswold said. “She believed everything should work together. She didn’t want anything to be a gob smacker, indoors or out.”

Griswold was fortunate to see the simple and harmonious execution of this vision during visits to the houses and gardens Mellon maintained in New York, Cape Cod, Antigua, and the 4,000-acre Oak Spring Farm in Virginia. The estate is home to Mellon’s life work, the Oak Spring Garden Library, which contains one of the world’s largest private collections of works on horticulture, botany, natural history, and travel. The 12,000-volume facility will now serve as headquarters for a library and learning center supported by the Gerard B. Lambert Foundation, named by Mellon after her father, a pharmaceutical baron.

Known for her statement, “Nothing should be noticed,” Bunny Mellon “had a highly developed sense of imperfect perfection.”

PHOTO: Inside the walled garden at Oak Spring Farm.
Inside the walled garden at Oak Spring Farm
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

Mellon developed her love of gardening early. She started her first garden plot at the age of 7 and acquired her first gardening book at age 12. In 1948 she married Paul Mellon, the son of financier Andrew Mellon, and the two lived a life of art collecting, philanthropy, horse breeding and racing, and entertaining. According to press reports, dinner guests included such luminaries as Queen Elizabeth and Truman Capote.

Griswold’s window into Mellon’s world looks out onto her gardens, which she designed according to three overarching rules: always use a horizon line, always make sure there is a formal feature, and always make sure there is a place to sit down.

 

Learn more about a fascinating, accomplished, and understated figure in American gardening and society, at Griswold’s April 18 lecture during the Antiques, Garden & Design Show, April 17–19, 2015.


©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Shop-portunities Await at the Antiques, Garden & Design Show

Craig Bergmann is the creative force behind the horticultural displays at this year’s Antiques, Garden & Design Show. He’s also one of the Show’s biggest shoppers.

“There’s something about the adventure of coming to the show,” said the Lake Forest landscape architect. “You don’t know what you’ll find, but you’ll find something.”

PHOTO: Committee member Donna LaPietra and Craig Bergmann at last year’s show.
Committee member Donna LaPietra and Craig Bergmann at last year’s show. Photo ©Cheri Eisenberg

Bergmann has practiced “the art of fine gardening” for decades as head of Craig Bergmann Landscape Design, Inc. This spring he will infuse the Show with his trademark style—an interplay of the classic and contemporary. Bergmann has devised a fresh, updated look—a series of indoor gardens that put a twist on traditional diamond motifs, and use a streamlined color palette of green, chartreuse, white and black. As an exhibitor in the Rose Garden Tent, his company will sell garden-related objects, containers and plants—and he will also carve out some time to peruse the antiques and collectables.

The pieces presented at the Antiques, Garden & Design Show have passed through an extreme quality sieve wielded by trusted dealers with a distinct skill set, according to Bergmann.

To give you a better feeling for what you’re likely to see at the Show, we’ve put together a gallery of some of Bergmann’s favorite finds from previous years, as well as antiquities he’s installed in clients’ gardens. Past performance can be a predictor of future success when it comes to the Garden’s annual event. “Dealers save objects for the show,” he said. “They bring in the best. It makes you feel really special that you’re able to shop there.”

PHOTO: Four seasons statues at the Bergmann residence garden.
Bergmann couldn’t resist these muse statues, representations of the four seasons. The pieces are from France and date to 1917, the same age as his home. They now serve as the centerpiece of Bergmann’s main garden. Photo ©Linda Oyama Bryan
PHOTO: Vintage patio set.
This vintage patio set, another one of Bergmann’s purchases, helps blend the garden with the interior of the home. “It’s much more the norm today to be inside and outside,” Bergmann said. Photo ©Linda Oyama Bryan
PHOTO: A collection of stone troughs comprise a patio container garden.
“Stone troughs were used to feed and water livestock, Bergmann said, “now they’re on some of the finest patios in Chicago.” Vintage planters and accessories add interest and sophistication to Bergmann’s container garden design pictured above. Bergmann sees a trend toward using hardier plants in container gardens. Consider using an ornamental shrub—think a blue flowering hydrangea or boxwood—or some perennials. They can be heeled into the soil for easy in-ground storage over the winter. Photo ©Linda Oyama Bryan
PHOTO: Craig Bergmann Landscape Design, Maki Residence, Buchanan Michigan.
Travel and the Internet provide clients access to a growing “gene pool” of design images, says Bergmann. Clients may be inspired by something they see on Pinterest or become fascinated by a roof top garden they visited in LA or the innovative High Line park in New York City. Growing sophistication gives clients the confidence to create interest by juxtaposing the ornate with the modern. The contemporary Michigan farm garden designed by Bergmann, above, uses an antique roof finial from France to guide the eye toward the horizon. Photo ©Linda Oyama Bryan
PHOTO: Craig Bergmann Landscape Design, Linville Residence, Lake Forest.
A rusted armillary provides a focal point for Bergmann’s intimate garden design, a classic boxwood topiary bordered by roses and perennials. Intrigued? You’re likely to find similar armillary spheres at this year’s show or fall in love with your own one-of-a-kind object. Photo ©Linda Oyama Bryan
PHOTO: Asian garden bench.
“Because our culture is so world savvy in relationship to style, people want to express that in their home,” Bergmann said. “Think of a traditional rose bouquet with baby’s breath and leather leaf ferns. Today this could be 2” high and 6” round and stuck into a 200-year-old Chinese mortar.” Vendors such as The Golden Triangle bring ancient objects new life by contrasting their uses. Bergmann uses tropical foliage, above, to compliment this venerable bench in his “Asian antiquities” garden design. Photo ©Linda Oyama Bryan


©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Rollins Brings Grace to Garden Parties

Fresh herbs, terra cotta pots and seed packets grace the table top for a summer pizza party at Boxwood, the Atlanta residence of Danielle Rollins.
Fresh herbs, terra cotta pots, and seed packets grace the tabletop for a summer pizza party at Boxwood, the Atlanta residence of Danielle Rollins.

Danielle Rollins, preeminent Atlanta hostess and tastemaker, has a special connection to Chicago—a place that’s very close to home. Rollins lives in the stately home, Boxwood, that was built by Eleanor McRae in 1928 as a small-scale version of her Lake Shore Drive childhood home. Designed by architect Philip Shutze, Boxwood has been lovingly refurbished and serves as a gracious setting for the inviting parties Rollins shares in her book, Soirée: Entertaining with Style.

Rollins will be our guest in April when she gives a keynote presentation April 12 at the Antiques & Garden Fair. We couldn’t wait, so we called Danielle last week to learn a little bit about her talk:

Q: Chicagoans are only able to entertain outdoors in the warm summer months. Can you suggest some ways to bring the grace and warmth of the South to our Chicago parties?

A: I think the key to entertaining in any of the four seasons is to focus on what makes your guests feel welcome, wanted, and happy. There are so many great celebrations coming up—Easter, Mother’s Day, or simply just because!

To me, summer is about outdoor entertaining. You’ve got nature as your inspirational backdrop and that should be your focus, with everything else blending into that. I love bringing the indoors outside. Without hesitation, I will incorporate my heirloom china as the place settings on a rustic table or have a full-blown picnic. Don’t be afraid to mix old and new, high and low. You don’t have to have the perfect items for entertaining. Stadium blankets, quilts, or even bed linens make the perfect table topper; I have even been known to use shower curtains as outdoor tablecloths! For your arrangements, nature provides everything you’ll need—as long as you have the clippers. With all this talk of nature, I offer my final suggestion for any fête: always make sure you have a backup plan; Mother Nature is a notorious party crasher.

Food does not have to be complicated or fancy to be pleasurable.
Food does not have to be complicated or fancy to be pleasurable.

Q: At the Chicago Botanic Garden, we encourage visitors to grow their own vegetables and support local farmers. How can these ideals be incorporated into entertaining?

A: I love shopping at my local farmers’ market down the street from me. I recommend shopping without a list. Go through and see what’s available and what’s local and build your menu around that. I can get really excited about radishes, carrots, English peas, asparagus, and fresh strawberries in early spring. What’s seasonal and what tastes best at the moment is my building block for any venue. The tabletop and flowers come second.

One of my favorite dinners I have ever orchestrated was a dinner with Blackberry Farms to honor heritage Southern farmers, complete with a flock of sheep on my front lawn! I used simple vases filled with a variety of wildflowers, and the place cards and napkins were tied with twine. The menu featured heirloom vegetables and mint juleps sweetened with sorghum. I think there’s nothing prettier than huge mounds of vegetables or fruits on a table. You don’t even need flowers.

Q: You’re known as a “gracious living” expert. What does that term mean to you?

Simple ingredients served in abundance, such as fresh salad from the farmers' market, bring grace and style to a summer party.
Simple ingredients served in abundance, such as fresh salad from the farmers’ market, bring grace and style to a summer party.

A: Gracious living means having a sense of grace. It’s the one thing we can give to each other and to ourselves that makes life worth living. It means slowing down and focusing on each other. It means working to live, rather than living to work. Be kind to each other. Be kind to yourself. Take the time to enjoy the details. I think that’s something that’s hard for us all to do. The same thing translates to entertaining. Focus on what makes your guests happy and what gives them pleasure, and ultimately that will bring you pleasure.

Q: You’ll be a keynote speaker at the Antiques & Garden Fair, along with your friend and colleague Miles Redd. What have you and Miles learned from each other?

A: Miles is a great friend, and we share the same birthday. We met in 2001 and can finish each other’s sentences. He taught me a sense of scale, not to be afraid to change things, and that every room needs some sparkle! While Miles is a rule breaker, at heart, he’s really a traditionalist. He is also, without question, the reason I wrote my book. Miles is good at recognizing talent, but he’s even better at pushing that talent to realize their dreams.

Rollins often starts her parties with leisurely cocktails—her signature Rollins Collins and other creative mixes of spirits, fruits, and edible flowers. A favorite summer drink is the Bloody Mary, served at a bar abundantly stocked with limes, lemons, carrots, celery, cucumbers, skewers of olives, pickled okra and onions, a selection of store-bought tomato juices, Mexican beers, and vodkas infused with pepper, horseradish, and other flavorings. Guests can assemble drinks to suit their tastes. Rollins calls hers a “salad in a glass.” She likes using a heavier glass—French hand-blown La Rochère or even a pilsner glass—with a nice rim to dip in lime juice or Tabasco, followed by seasoned celery salt. We’ll be serving a version at the Antiques & Garden Fair, April 11 to 13. Come and try one! (You can download her special recipe—with candied bacon garnish—here.)

Danielle Rollins’s Classic Bloody Mary

PHOTO: Full pitcher and cocktail.
Try a new twist on a classic cocktail—download this recipe!

Ingredients

Celery salt
1 lemon, juice of
1 lime, juice of
2 oz vodka (freeze vodka overnight)
6 oz pre-made Bloody Mary Mix (Freshies is my favorite)
1 dash Tabasco sauce
2 tsp prepared horseradish
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
1 pinch celery salt or Old Bay seasoning
1 pinch freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Pour  some celery salt or Old Bay seasoning in a small plate. Squeeze lemon or lime juice into a small bowl and dip the glass rim into  the  juice. Roll the outer edge of the glass in the salt or seasoning until fully coated. For extra zing, use Tabasco sauce instead of the lemon or lime juice. Add the remaining ingredients into a shaker and fill with ice. Shake gently and strain into the prepared glass.

Garnish with celery stalk (with the leaves on) and a strip of candied bacon (see recipe below) or a bamboo skewer of olives, tiny grape tomatoes, and a lime wedge.

Candied Bacon

Ingredients

½ cup packed light brown sugar
1½ tsp chile powder
20 slices of thick-cut bacon

Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with foil. In a small bowl, whisk the brown sugar with the chile powder. Arrange the bacon strips on the foil and coat the tops with the chile sugar. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until caramelized and almost crisp. Transfer the bacon to a rack set over a sheet of foil to cool completely.

©2014 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

An Inside Look at Spring’s First Party

As April 10th gets closer with each passing day, our excitement builds for the Garden’s first spring party, the Antiques & Garden Fair Preview Evening. We talked with Cathy Busch, one of the co-producers of the show to get an inside look at what they have in store for us!

cathy Busch 2Cathy, you have supported the Garden’s Antiques & Garden Fair for years as a Co-Producer. What do you like best about it?

I have always thought of this event as the unofficial kick-off to the spring season in Chicago–whether Mother Nature cooperates or not! The past few months spent in the polar vortex were grueling and our hope is that people will be inspired to step out and reconnect with friends they haven’t seen in a while. There’s a celebratory feeling about the whole weekend, beginning with the preview party, where guests have the first chance to shop. It’s a chance to see beautiful objects, think about new ways to live and entertain well this summer, or just feel part of a welcoming community. We hope people will visit the Garden, this year especially, and feel the winter blues fade away.

Antiques & Garden Fair Preview Evening

AGF food Carts
Hors d’oeuvres will be served on new rolling carts this year.

A great party needs great food and drinks. Do you know what’s on the menu this year?

Our caterer again this year will be Jewell Events Catering and they always pull out all the stops for this party. Their creative and culinary team really understand Preview—the importance of shopping, socializing and sampling! They’ve devised charming new garden carts this year that will stroll through the aisles so the food comes to you! We happen to believe that if you’re well fed, you’re in a good mood! The seasonal food complements all the other influences at the show—it’s a complete sensory experience.

The Isle of Man is creating a Men's Lounge for this year's preview party.
The Isle of Man is creating a Men’s Lounge for this year’s preview party.

This event has done a great job attracting women to shop and have a fun night with girlfriends. What about the men?

We absolutely hope the men will come! New this year at the preview party will be a Men’s Lounge assembled by the creative team at Isle of Man America in Chicago. They’ve thought of everything to entertain the guys: vintage motorcycles, humidors and sporting equipment, custom furniture and good scotch—just a lot of cool masculine stuff. For the men who also stroll the booths, there will be fabulous food and drinks circulating throughout the fair. No one will go home hungry!

What’s so special about a Fair at the Garden?

The setting is what really sets us apart from other national shows. The Chicago Botanic Garden is a cultural gem and a leader among national gardens. Being there, surrounded by hundreds of acres of natural beauty when spring is just beginning to show its promise is pure magic. We hope first-time visitors will fall in love with the Garden and come back often to see the gardens grow more and more beautiful as the seasons progress.

Lees Antique's booth from last year’s Antiques & Garden Fair

Tell us about the speakers who will be appearing at the Fair this year. Quite a lineup!

We are so excited about this year’s speakers! Miles Redd is one of the hottest talents in interior design today. His fresh and fearless approach to design, his exuberant use of color, and his ability to mix periods and styles are inspiring. He’s oozing with talent and, oh, by the way, he also happens to be incredibly nice. His friend, Danielle Rollins, is a star in her own right too! As the reigning guru of entertaining and author of the stunning book, Soiree, Danielle claims a successful party is all in the details and we will be there with our pencils sharpened taking notes.

Cathy's Bulldog
My well-mannered English bulldog. Well-groomed is another story!

You have exquisite taste and have made your home a great space for entertaining. Have you found any items at the Fair and how do they create a great space for entertaining?

There are so many tempting objects to drool over at the show! I’ve managed to pick up a few things over the years—some fun mid-century pieces that are easy to mix, unique silver and gifts. I’m also a sucker for vintage Lucite. My favorite find is definitely a goofy stone English bulldog statuary that lives in our backyard. Our bulldog, Rose, just can’t figure it out, terrorizing it until she collapses from exhaustion. The statuary has far better manners and is better looking than the real thing for sure.

Bette is part of Big Blooms by Paul Lange
Bette is part of Big Blooms by Paul Lange

Are you anticipating any trends this year? What will you be watching out for at the Fair this year?

Old school garden statuary and antiques will never go out of style, but I think we’ll see more mid-century offerings this year because living with them is so easy and chic—nothing too precious or off-limits.

I’m excited about some of the incredible new talent appearing at the Antiques & Garden Fair this year—Janus et Cie for chic outdoor furniture and acclaimed New York photographer, Paul Lange, with his giant blooms, to name a few.

©2014 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Q & A with Miles Redd

We can hardly wait for the über-charming design star, Miles Redd, to hit the Antiques & Garden Fair on April 11!

In order to whet our appetites for all things Miles, the fabulously talented Redd graciously agreed to answer a few of our questions—a little hint of what’s to come when he comes to town. All we can say is buy your lecture tickets now so you don’t miss this design legend in the flesh!

PHOTO: Miles Redd.
Miles Redd
Photo by Patrick McMullan

There is an art to mixing materials, periods, and styles in order to create interest and harmony. You get it right every time. What’s your secret?

I think Picasso said it best: “good artists copy, great artists steal!” I really love to look at the masters, past and present, and really, it is simple; you imitate what turns you on. Also, a feeling in my gut helps a lot!

We’d say you’ve definitely mastered old Hollywood glamour! Does your background in film and set design influence you as an interior designer?

When I was young, blockbusters were among my best friends. I do love the interiors of films in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s. They give you a fantasy of what they want it to be, rather than how it probably was, and you know, often it is better—the fantasy, that is!

Which designers inspire you and your work today? Which “up and comers”?

That is a long list, but here goes: Nancy Lancaster, Albert Hadley, Syrie Maugham, Elsie de Wolfe, Francis Elkins, Jansen—and then today I love what Studio Peregalli is doing, and I think Daniel Romualdez has lots of style, and David Kaihoi—a very talented guy in my office—is a terrific springboard. (His apartment was on the cover of House Beautiful and worth a Google search!) Do you think will have staying power in the business?

PHOTO: Danielle Rollins and Miles Redd hold a tablecloth over his stone circular garden table.
Danielle Rollins and Miles Redd begin to dress the table in his garden. Photo by Quentin Bacon.

We read that you enjoy the view of your garden from your bedroom. What kind of garden have you created in New York City?

Very much a French architecture—it’s all about clipped hornbeams and boxwood and deep turquoise treillage—very architectural, with no flowers…my kind of garden.

You must adore hunting for unique furniture and objects through dealers at shows like this one. What advice do you have for someone shopping an antiques fair?

If you love it, and the price is right, seize the moment! The worst is regretting something you should have gone for!

PHOTO: High ceilings accentuate a bathroom finished in mirror and Italian marble.
A master bathroom designed with Hollywood glamour by Miles Redd. Photo by Paul Costello.

©2014 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org