Grasses – Versatile Partners for Uncommon Garden Design was my first book with Story Publishing and the first time I teamed up with a writer to author a book. And boy, was I glad to team up with Nancy Ondra, the extraordinary gardener and wonderful writer, way cross country in Pennsylvania.
We worked across the country and only met once, but the collaboration was classic and we created a book that has sold more than 100,000 copies. I loved her outline, giving me free reign to find grasses used in all sorts of ornamental horticulture, and was delighted when she worked in photos I shot, just because I was entranced.
And entranced I was; and entranced I continue to be. I traveled across the country for a year, meeting gardeners, nurserymen, designers, and collectors – grassaholics who inspired me to keep shooting. Highlights had to be going to Heronswood nursery and the great garden of Dan Hinkley, meeting Neil Diboll of Prairie Nursery, and my first visit to Longwood Gardens.
I began my obsession with grasses doing volunteer work for The Nature Conservancy whose botanist gave me my first connection with botanic nomenclature, so by cleverly connecting with renowned grass experts I made possible all the identification and captioning. Thanks Storey Publishing for giving me a travel budget….
While on the lecture circuit when the book came out, at one stop I shared a stage with Jim Folsom of The Huntington Botanical Garden. Jim was giving a presentation on photosynthesis he called “Harvesting the Light”. I unabashedly stole that phrase. It perfectly describes what grasses do in a garden in front of a camera.
And once I had spent a year photographing gardens using grasses as ornamental specimens and partners in garden design, I realized one of the best uses of grasses was hardly touched. Entire gardens of grasses, tall and short could evoke meadows and replace lawns.
Meadows by Design would come along a few years later.