I speak to groups on occasion. As I believe that exchange between gardeners is a form of gardening, I am happy to do so. I have met lots of interesting people this way. Today I hosted a local chapter of the PEO. I don’t know much about their organization, except that they make a point of encouraging and funding women who seek higher education, and need help getting that. A group with a mission such as this-I felt a story about an experience which served to educate me seemed appropriate. In the early eighties I worked for the landscape designer, Al Goldner. My brief tenure with him before he retired proved to be an experience that greatly influenced my design life.
He had that bel’occhio gene-the beautiful eye- so aptly described by Thomas Hobbs. I discussed this last week; gardeners are optimistic, and appreciate and require beauty in their lives. Al loved all manner of plants. He was a landscape designer with as much heart as skill, and great instincts. When I first went to work for him in 1983, he had already struck a deal with Grand Hotel.
Anyone reading who lives in Michigan knows that the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island has been in business since 1887-this would be 124 years. A resort hotel dating from the Victorian era still hosts countless guests and groups beautifully every year. A stay there-lovely, luxurious, relaxing, and gorgeous. Dan and Amelia Musser-they too have the bel’occio gene. Once they met Al, they decided more beautiful gardens were in order. I am making short written work of what proved to be a long and important relationship.
By the time I came to work for Al Goldner, Grand Hotel had already invested much time, money, and people to the development of their landscape and gardens. I would be sent there on occasion to plant. Later, I would be sent there to design, and then plant. The property is enormous. The hotel has an identity which is crystal clear, and an equal committment to providing everything that makes for a great experience. When Al retired, they asked me to take on the design of the gardens. Why would I not? They were clients with a bel’occio gene; I designed and supervised their gardens for ten great years.
My point to my group this morning is as follows. No other hotels on Mackinac Island had gardens or container plantings when I first went there to work. Today, the gardens and plantings all over the island attract countless visitors. Three people with a vision transformed the landscape of an entire community.
The time I spent working there was an incredible experience. It was a winter’s work to design and order the plant material for all of the gardens. They took every bit of 6 weeks to plant. I have never since seen so many flowers in one place. Though I have not been there for a very long time, I hear the gardens are still beautiful.