In 1985 (could it be that long ago?) Elsa Bakalar, my Heath neighbor and friend, and I started writing an article about color in the garden for Horticulture magazine. One summer day in 1986 the brilliant photographer, and gardener, Garry Mottau arrived in Elsa’s garden at dawn. That’s when I learned about the importance and desirability of that early morning light for photography. I even got to hold a piece of shiny Thermax to throw some gentle light on Elsa’s face, or the flowers she was working with. That was another photography lesson for me. The article finally appeared in the January 1987 issue of Horticulture Magazine. Elsa was the cover girl!
At the end of the story you will see a note saying that Elsa and I were writing a book together. I bombed out, but Elsa not only wrote her book, with her beloved husband Mike’s editorial support and advice, she started criss-crossing the US, in demand as a garden speaker, well known for her wit and humor as well as her knowledge.
Several years ago, after her husband’s death, Elsa sold her house and garden to noted artists Scott Prior and his wife Nanny Vonnegut. Nanny confessed that she lets Scott handle the garden, which he maintains with the help of Jeff Farrell. Jeff worked with Elsa in her garden for a number of years. Among other things he is a now a member of the Trillium Workshops trio; they have arranged tours of this garden for those who want to enjoy a fabulous, riotous country garden that is also sophisticated and inspiring. The next tour is July 18, and the final tour is on Sept. 19. It is best to sign up early.
Horticulture never forgot Elsa’s beautiful garden. The results of their revisit are in the new issue, with an interview with Scott and Nanny. More photos! Horticulture has made it possible to download the original story by clicking on
You can see the new story by Jane Roy Brown with photos by Bill Regan by picking up the August/September issue. If you live close enough you can even visit with Jeff Farrell and see the garden ‘in the flesh’.
Elsa passed away this winter. I wish she could have seen her garden’s return to the pages of Horticulture magazine. She would have enjoyed it, and she would love knowing people still have the pleasure of visiting her garden and learning from it.