Leslie’s friends and frequent users of this Blog might like to know of the following developments concerning the archiving of Leslie’s written work and of her gardens.


Leslie’s papers are being preserved at The Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. The Schlesinger houses the collections Culinary Historians as well as of noted American Women. Here Leslie will take her place alongside Julia Child, Betty Freidan and others. From their records, it appears to me that the Library became interested in obtaining Leslie’s papers as far back as 1985.

In today’s age the term “papers” designates far more than what we assumed in times past. As many writers of her age, Leslie’s words and ideas were recorded by an increasingly complex array of modalities from handwritten entries on scraps of paper, in notebooks and journals, typewritten script, through iteration upon iteration of word-processing machines and digitally processed computer files with differing formats and storage systems, to various email, audio video, social media and associated interfacing programs. Even the website you have accessed here and on which you are reading these words has been ‘captured’ by the Library.

Being an inveterate collector, record keeper and historian, as you might imagine, Leslie saved everything.

Over the past six years, from our two houses, two barns and two sheds, I have been prying these documents from the shelfs, closets, drawers and desks, annotating what I could when I thought it appropriate, and sending the collection off to the Schlesinger. Technologically savvy Librarians from area Colleges helped in condensing the digital records from various computers and hard drives. To date, 27 boxes have been sent off. The annotated inventory record itself runs to 37 pages. For me, it was a help to have previously worked as a research assistant at The University of Chicago Law School Library when it came to making decisions as to what might be worth saving or annotating.

Additional material may be added as it becomes available. If you have personal correspondence with Leslie or other material which you would like to add please contact Kathryn Allamong Jacob, Curator of Manuscripts at the Library.

At the Schlesinger, only a small part of the collected papers has as yet been digitized and catalogued. Those currently available can be found via their HOLIS Search at,contains,Leslie%20Land&tab=everything&search_scope=everything&vid=HVD2&lang=en_US&offset=0


Leslie’s Gardens have been modified and maintained. In both the New York and Maine Gardens, the emphasis has moved from select plots of edibles tested for their hardiness and flavor to perennial plantings with more a sculptural aspect.

Maine, in particular, where excellent organic produce is readily available, has seen the most obvious changes. Following the trends and plans that Leslie initiated prior to her death, the dominant theme here has been to focus on perennials:

Celia and Ursula surrounded by perennial plantings in the Upper Garden

Celia and Ursula surrounded by perennial plantings in the Upper Garden

Everywhere there is more open space, the vistas are longer, more expansive, the view towards the water has opened up.

The Lower Perennial Garden, once vegetables, with vistas toward the St. Georges tidal river.

The Lower Perennial Garden, once vegetables, with vistas toward the St. Georges tidal river.

In New York the emphasis has been on flowers.

New York side garden with Eucomis, canna, and goldenrod set amongst perennial shrubs.

New York side garden with Eucomis, canna, and goldenrod set amongst perennial shrubs.

At times a Mother/Daughter team has run the main gardens here for their Herb and Flower Business. The soil continues to be amended annually via organic sustainable techniques and produces far beyond the expectations of first time users of this garden. Once a railroad bed, the soil is now double dug deep and of a rich loamy composition.

The main New York Garden, south plot. Once a Railroad, the soil is now deep dark and productive, overflowing with flowers.

The main New York Garden, south plot. Once a Railroad, the soil is now deep dark and productive, overflowing with flowers.

The one area which I have yet to resolve is the disposition of Leslie’s private Library. Stretching over 100 linear feet, her collection of agricultural, culinary, and related references represent a highly curated selection which informed her work and life. I am loath to break it up thinking, as I do, that the integrity of the collection is worth more than the sum of its parts, but to date I have not found a home for this resource. I would welcome any suggestions you might have. This website will continue to be maintained.

On a related note, you might wish to know that Lois is doing well and continues to garner wide recognition for her painting. Other artists continue to come by to paint and play in the gardens, and Kristi continues on as my master gardener, knowing much more than I, and retaining a clear memory of what Leslie intended, reprimanding me when I deviate too far from those plans.

As for me, the gardens, the writings, the lives together remain as a clear message and living testament, even as I move on, to what I learned from Leslie: One’s life is One’s work. It is all there is, the sum and substance of our time here on earth. We plant the seeds, separate from the sprout the weeds which rob from the promise, cut away the disease which eats at the heart, where possible prune away the distracting, the disturbing, the untruthful. “Edit,” as she would say. What remains is the essence; the essence of the fruit, of the life – the sole purpose of which, once savored, is to be returned again to the soil as compost for the future. It is a cycle repeated as time itself repeats, for time reveals us all as compost; the green fuse, the fruit forced firm and full, the memories fermenting in the firmament.

Who tends this space?

The wind blows, the bough bends,
Ashes lie in the garden.

Without discrimination,
The summer’s sun pushes both
rose and rust to ruination.

Bill Bakaitis December 2019

Leslie Mann Land, 1947-2013

Leslie Land Leslie’s obituary in the New York Times was written by her longtime friend in the publishing world, Denise Martin, with assistance by Charles Klaveness, her favorite editor at the Times and can be found here »

The obituary prepared for the Camden Herald in Maine was written by Nancy Harmon Jenkins with assistance from Sandy Oliver, two thirds of The Penobscot Bay Lady food Writers Association and can be viewed here »

At the time of this writing two articles of her passing have been published:
Here »
and here »

At least one other is being prepared for the Camden Herald/Village Soup.

In response to the Press Herald blog post, the root above, I responded with the following:

Indeed Leslie did live more in a day than even I, her husband, was aware. Together, for a quarter century, we shared the daily rituals of food, gardening, mushrooming, philosophy, politics, taxonomy, struggles with the various illnesses which have plagued our bees, our tomatoes, and crops in general. And yet, she continually surprised even me. Life with her was profoundly rich.

She was luxuriant, perhaps even extravagant with her approach to both food and gardening. She always wanted enough in the garden and refrigerator so that she could experiment, plan, compare and develop beyond the ordinary. Just as Americans in general have the most expensive pee in the world, thanks to our copious vitamin intake, I think Leslie may have had the most expensive compost.

There was an abundance to her life which filled our houses and lives to the fullest. In our New York (winter) home we have two freezers, two refrigerators, a cold room, greenhouse and several pantries which overflow with food that she has gathered from the garden, collected from the forest and field, or purchased from local and exotic purveyors. These ingredients are, of course, the raw materials and colors from which she created the ever increasing richness of her preparations. And yet, at base, it was always fresh, pure, and simply satisfying. I believe it was Edgar Alan Bean, another food writer who years ago described Leslie as having ‘perfect taste’, comparing her to musicians who had ‘perfect pitch’.

Even now that she has passed our houses and gardens overflow with her presence. In one distant corner of our NY garden , for example, are three tomato plants grown from seed which for the past three years has been collected and grown out from the best of the ‘long keeper’s’ of one particular and tasty variety. This is but one of the 30 or more varieties of tomatoes she grows and tests every year, both in New York’s Hudson Valley and Coastal Maine – so that she can compare the interactions of micro-climate and variety on taste, texture, and overall plant health.

As it was with food and gardening, Leslie applied the same lawyerly analytics and tender sensibilities to everything she approached and, as Sharon so accurately captured she filled the pages of her books and blog with wit, wisdom and insight. She was always a hard act to follow. Bright, honest, caring, loyal, the brightest person I have ever met and best friend one could ever have.

She will be missed by many.

Leslie LandThis Website and Blog will be maintained for the resource that Leslie intended it to be. In time I will attempt in some minimal way to learn enough to ‘manage’ it, although I will never know enough to do it with the richness you have come to expect.

Between here and there, however, there are her gardens in the Hudson Valley and Coastal Maine to see through to harvest; weeds to be pulled, tomatoes picked, savored and processed, corn to be guarded, flowers dead-headed, mushrooms gathered, records kept.

With her passing, the words of the poet W.S. Merwin* flood my being:

Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

* Separation

— Bill Bakaitis August 18, 2013

Eric’s Pet Plant: ‘Hally Jolivette’ Cherry (Prunus x ‘Hally Jolivette’)

hally jolivette cherry blossoms

‘Hally Jolivette’ flowering cherry. The deep pink buds open pure white in some flowers, pink throated in others, making it especially striking up close. The bloom can go on for two weeks or a bit more, if the weather is right.

As you may have noticed, we’re deep in the season  for going on about the Lovliest of Trees, even though these days most flowering cherries appear to be hung with something that looks more like cotton candy than the snow that so moved Housman.  Our friend Eric is not immune, and not surprisingly, he has a favorite.

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You CAN grow fragrant jasmine in the North!

In spite of what some people say. I’ve done it before and am about (with luck) to do it again, even though I keep swearing up and down I’ve had it with plants that have to be brought in for the winter.

carolina jessamine flower (gelsimium sempervirens)

Carolina jessamine, Gelsemium sempervirens. Not really a jasmine at all. But it IS the Southern fragrance that inspired my current bout of jasmine lust.


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Ta Daaa! Winners of Margaret Roach’s The Backyard Parables

new england aster and cardoon

If you’re planning to grow cardoons, it’s time to start the seeds.


Please see update at end of post

We have just concluded our first contest!   (Announced on February 2nd, at the end of an interview with my friend Margaret Roach about her new book, The Backyard Parables, a very Margaret melange of memoir, garden philosophy and practical garden advice.)

One winner  was chosen by random  drawing  from the names of everyone who asked to be included. The other went to the person who was best able, in my sole judgment, to write without being cloying, predictable or religious about a happy garden experience. The Happy Story winner was chosen first, so the names of all the runners-up  could be added to the random drawing list.

And the winners are:

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Margaret Roach on Garden Writing and The Backyard Parables, plus Inkitchen’s First Contest

As garden blogger, I owe Margaret Roach a lot, and have already thanked her for being such an ongoing inspiration.

But it’s more than time to thank her again, and not just for A Way to Garden, blog extraordinaire.  Although she’s working more than full time to build A Way into what I’m sure will soon be a horticultural empire (look out P.W.; there are people as enterprising as you are who can actually write, to say nothing of taking better photographs), she has continued to be a generous friend to all her fellow members of  the plant-besotted community.

That being the case, it’s no surprise that dozens of us who’ve  been given the chance have joined the “ blog book tour” for her latest book, The Backyard Parables.

the backyard parables, margaret roach, cover

Seldom have I seen a book’s cover more in tune with its content: One part ephemeral, beautiful, slightly funny gift from nature; two or more parts eternal, beautiful, serious-but-non-judgmental more or less Buddhist philosophy.

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Sweet Basil: Choosing, Growing, Storing and Recipes

basil 'Green Ruffles' (Ocimum basilicum

‘Green Ruffles’ makes a good bouquet filler after it’s gone to flower. Leaves are a bit larger than this at what might be called best edible stage.


“Write more about growing basil” has been on the do list for some time – years, actually, ever since the  basil harvest tips post that appeared back in 2006. (Nothing hasty, that’s my motto.)

But filling out this year’s seed orders has finally given me the requisite nudge. In catalogue after catalogue, Occimum basilicum and its close relatives are available in a far wider assortment than any other culinary herb (at least among annuals; thyme is another matter). This year we’ll be planting eight varieties and that’s just a small sampling.

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Starting Seeds

tashkent marigold

Tashkent Marigold, from one of my favorite seed companies, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

Well, I’ve wasted another perfectly good hour, as the Car Guys would say, going through the umpty-millionth seed catalog, marking every tempting vegetable, herb and flower.

Have I checked which seeds I’ve already ordered? No. Have I checked which seeds I already have? Also no. Were any of these markings made with an eye to the limits of the garden, or for that matter the limits of me?

Of course not, because the truth is the hour wasn’t wasted, it was used as a tranquilizer. Locally, it’s too cold to work in the garden; globally, it’s too hot for the world as we know it to endure. Both of these facts have the potential to be depressing, but just thinking about planting seeds pushes all gloom away.

No matter what else is happening, a seed would rather grow. What could be more wonderful than that?

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Securing Special Seeds (Martian Jewels Corn, for instance)

martian jewels corn

An ear of Martian Jewels on the stalk – note the rich color of the stem and husk. (See end of post for useful tips on choosing and ordering vegetable seeds).

As far as I’m concerned, this time of year is already plenty busy enough. Had I my druthers, I’d just let the seed catalogs pile up until that lovely lull between Christmas and New Years when most of the baking is safely done but it’s not yet time to go see the accountant.

However. Thanks to the ballooning assortment of esoteric goodies for which not even the largest company has sufficient room, waiting is not an option. Between “last chance” and “limited supply” something unique is going to get sold out soon, and she who hesitates is going to be

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The Leftover Turkey List – Lucky Thirteen

Dr. Huey rose

This is rosa ‘Dr. Huey.’ He has absolutely nothing to do with turkey, leftover or otherwise. I’ve just had it with looking at food for a while.

These suggestions are offered just in case you are like me and turn out to still have some left. Eternity is famously “two people and a ham,” but turkey is even more so, in my opinion. This may have something to do with the fact that Bill is strictly a ham sandwich man, so I can’t count on lunch for help. (A bit about Dr. Huey follows.)

Thirteen Things to do with Leftover Turkey

shortcuts included

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