Friday, February 12, 2016

A tribute to Ann Stookey

I will never forget my interview with Ann Stookey in May, 2010. Ann was an accomplished floral designer and choral singer, but my interest was in her Chestnut Hill garden. It was unlike any I'd ever seen. It was all green. That sounds pretty boring, and really, how different could it be from most other gardens? Plenty.

A tribute to Ann Stookey

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I will never forget my interview with Ann Stookey in May, 2010. Ann was an accomplished floral designer and choral singer, but my interest was in her Chestnut Hill garden. It was unlike any I'd ever seen. It was all green. That sounds pretty boring, and really, how different could it be from most other gardens? Plenty.

Here's how I saw it then: "For too long, green's been disparaged as dull background, like outdoor wallpaper, not considered a color in its own right in the garden. But it can be quietly spectacular, as Stookey's garden will attest. Here, green comes in lime, teal and forest; shiny and matte, and variations in between. It's a subtle and dignified landscape to rest the eyes and calm the nerves. 'It does not draw attention to itself,' says Stookey."

Ann and I had a wonderful time walking around the garden, examining the topiary hydrangea balls and clipped, geometric boxwoods. I remember the huge gray containers and window boxes filled with succulents and black elephant ears. So striking against the Wissahickon schist of her 1863 Victorian home.

Sadly, Ann died suddenly Nov. 6, 2012, in Paris, where she was travelling with her husband, retired Comcast executive Joe Waz (they have one son) and friends. She was only 60, and she is missed by many, including her pals in the Wissahickon Garden Club, which she referred to in our interview as "the mighty Wissahickon."

This past Friday, her family and many friends gathered at the Mann Center to dedicate a garden in Ann's memory. The centerpiece is a Glenn E.  Zweygardt fountain with contemporary benches and plinth. Ann and Joe purchased the fountain many years ago for their terrace garden at home.

Not long after my interview with Ann - I'd like to think there is no cause and effect here! - she and Joe moved to California and decided to donate the fountain to the Mann. After her death, the family made another decision - to create a memorial to her using the fountain. It's a granite monolith, with a bronze bowl on top. The water trickles down from there. Very lovely.

The memorial also includes 2 trees (crape myrtle and oak) for shade, a Japanese holly hedge like the one on Ann's terrace, and a simple ivy ground cover. Lots of green. Just as Ann would've liked.

Inquirer Staff Writer
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About this blog
Ginny Smith, a Philadelphia native, joined the Inquirer at 1985. After stints as both reporter and editor in the city and suburbs, she’s been happily writing – and learning - about gardening full time since 2006. She’s won two silver medals of achievement from the national Garden Writers Association and in 2011, Bartram’s Garden honored her with its Green Exemplar award for her stories about “the region’s deeply rooted horticultural history, cultural attractions and bountiful gardens.” She plays in her own – mostly - bountiful garden in East Falls. Reach Virginia A. at vsmith@phillynews.com .

Virginia A. Smith Inquirer Staff Writer
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