James Farmer is kind of like a walking, talking issue of Southern Living magazine. He’s a gardener, a landscape designer, an interior designer, a cookbook author and — not too surprisingly — an editor-at-large for Southern Living.
A native of Georgia, Farmer attended Auburn University, where he started his business, James Farmer Designs, by helping local ladies "fluff" their homes for parties or events. Today, Farmer’s business is based in Perry, Ga.
This quintessential Southerner will be the guest speaker at Longleaf Botanical Gardens’ second annual garden party fundraiser on Thursday.
Farmer’s many books include "Dinner on the Grounds," "Porch Living" and "A Time to Plant." His latest book, "A Place to Call Home," focuses on interior design, and will be out in the fall.
This week, The Star posed 10 questions to Farmer, which he answered by e-mail. His answers follow (the multiple exclamation points and happy face are his):
Q: The damage that last summer’s drought did to landscapes is just now becoming apparent. How did your garden fare?
A: My garden is young so I was able to keep it through irrigation and hand watering. However, I am noticing among the trees and around the effects of the drought. I had to nurse my young garden.
Q: If people are discovering bare spots in their gardens, what should they replant with?
A: If it is a perennial border or flower bed, I like to use rosemary because it is aromatic and evergreen for us in the Deep South. As you garden further north, I like other neutral plants such as artemesia for its silvery green foliage. Another shrub of choice for such a spot would be ‘Little Lamb’ hydrangea.
Q: Given the more frequent droughts, should people start thinking differently about their landscapes in the South? More drought-tolerant plants? More natives?
A: I think incorporating more drought-tolerant and natives is always more keen in reducing the size of the lawn. It reduces the amount of grass you have to water. I would rather have a postage stamp of green healthy grass than a patchwork quilt of dying turf.
Q: What are the new trends in landscape design?
A: I think classic design is always your best bet. Boxwoods, hedges and accents such as pots and benches will always be the best for the garden. Whether garden design or interior design, I try to avoid trendy patterns.
Q: What’s going to be in your vegetable garden this year?
A: I leave the big vegetable garden to my uncle and my grandfather. I always have herbs, tomatoes and zinnias. Because one cannot have enough zinnias to go with tomato sandwiches!
Q: If you had to pick one: vegetable garden or flower garden?
Q: Are you seeing more interest in outdoor rooms? Are people maybe getting tired of shutting themselves up in the air-conditioned house all summer?
A: Yes! I would refer them to a book called "Porch Living" for inspiration. Garden rooms and porches are ideal for summer months.
Q: So what can you share about your upcoming book "A Place to Call Home"?
A: It is an interiors book showcasing projects across the South and stories that transition a house to a home, which is what we try to provide our clients.
Q: What makes a place a home, as opposed to a house?
A: All the senses are engaged and memories are collected along with artwork and antiques.
Q: Let’s say it’s an emergency and you’ve got 30 minutes to "fluff" a living room. What can you do in half an hour?
A: Straighten up! Clean up! Fluff the pillows! Arrange some fresh flowers! I am an interior designer not a miracle worker. :)
Lisa Davis is Features Editor of The Anniston Star. Contact her at 256-235-3555 or email@example.com.