This gardener on the go headed down to Nashville, TN for a taste of spring on Feb. 7, but the only spring to be found was at the Nashville Antiques and Garden Show. Stayed in a spacious apartment on the 21st floor of the Cumberland with expansive views west and a peek of the courtyard of the Nashville Public Library. Thought of a trip to Cheekwood Botanical Gardens, but the cold and the wind made one feel as if it were Chicago in January. Even this hardy gardener huddled down and stayed mostly inside.
The show was spectacular in several senses. First, I must say that I have never been amongst so many singular pieces of furniture, jewelry, painting, folk art, architectural and garden accoutrements. It was Antiques Road Show come to life! The most
amazing piece there was a John Singer Sargent portrait study that had just recently been discovered in 1992, previously hidden on the backside of a student painting of the same person. The student work had been framed and the back covered over with craft paper. When the painting was sold at an estate sale and the new owner took the piece out of the frame (was that why the piece was purchased?) and removed the backing there was another portrait with an inscription on the stretcher frame “This portrait was painted by John Singer Sargent when I took his class” Displayed by the J.M. Stringer Gallery, the portrait’s perceived value grows with its history. It can be yours for $200,000.
But, really, the reason for going is the gardens and the Garden of Rememberance, designed by Ryan Gainey, was beautiful and gracious in all ways: proportion, structure, texture, plant material. Plus, the public was able to enter the garden, not just view it from outside, totally encompassing cosy feeling of crossing into a fenced scantuary and abundant garden and leaving our banal world behind. And, boy, does he know how to dress – Bravo!
A special mention on the plant material here as there was a fair amount of vegetable and flower crops expertly grown, sweet pea, nasturtiums, broccoli, collards, there were even tomato plants with small green fruit on them arranged abundantly. The espalier fruit trees were a good 10 ft high and, of course, there was a lot of rosemary. I made a point of brushing up against it ever so slightly as I went about setting up.
Besides this star, there were 5 other designed gardens, all that had merit, but some that spoke to me. The theme of the show was “The Shape of Things to Come” and each designer was assigned a shape. The first I shall mention is the diamond garden, by Mark D. Thomas and Ray McCauley, where the classic square ‘en point’ worked easily on the ground plane and then was successful brought into the vertical with the “Moon Gate” and a custom fence with bullet glass lay in diamond form.
Another vignette successfully incorporated a vertical striped fabric print of aqua and delphinium tones that was hung from 40′ up and lead the eye down to an open air shower stall. Even without the showerhead flowing (and apparently there was a technical snafu so the shower was not fully operational) the design translated the idea quite gracefully.Credited to Stephen Wells and Chris Crenshaw.
Amongst the garden vendors there was the usual assortment of local and national companies exhibiting. Some locals of note – the gregarious protraits and animal studies by Dennis Wile, Stone Fence Pottery, owned by the master potter Fritz Wolff(no close relation to Connecticut’s Guy Wolff), and AshBlue, a local life style shop. One of my favorite booths was that of Madison James and her Fly Away Sticks(to get rid of unwanted guests). Amid the riot of products at all the stands, her booth stood out for it’s elegant simplicity.