View excerpts from the The Landscape Diaries  

“When I ran away in 1965 at the age of 20, I packed eight giant suitcases and withdrew all of my money from the East New York Savings Bank . . . to purchase a one-way First Class ticket on the final voyage of the Queen Mary.”

This book is a fascinating glimpse into the life of Carole Avnet, daughter of the late Lester Avnet, who founded Fortune 500 company Avnet, Inc. Raised in Kings Point, Long Island in an environment of privilege and opportunity, Carole’s life began to move in an unexpected direction following the untimely death of her father. She shares highlights of that journey here, in her own quirky voice.

The vignettes that make up The Landscape Diaries—whether hilarious or heartbreaking, informative or infuriating—illuminate a family, a marriage, a business, and a remarkable creative gift.

View front cover of The Landscape Diaries

Carole and her husband began their nursery in the parking lot of a country deli selling flowers and bushes, and years later designed and built “one of the great private gardens in America at this time” according to Dr. Kim Tripp, Director of the New York Botanical Garden.

The tales of their 39-year partnership will capture your heart.


Praise for The Landscape Diaries: Garden of Obsession

"Gayatri Carole Rocherolle's book is a feast -- for the eyes, for the mind, and for the heart. It's a marvelously entertaining romp, written by an iconoclast who, simply stated, farms beauty. In The Landscape Diaries she's brought in a bumper crop."
       ~Richard Cohen, The Washington Post

"We ... have enjoyed reading [The Landscape Diaries] immensely, and are showing it off to all and sundry, who exclaim when they see those photos of [the Steinhardts'] extraordinary garden. We are most impressed by Carole's compelling story, which makes it far more interesting than most garden books. ... I think the chef d'oeuvre that you have achieved... is world class and will only get better and better."
~Francis H. Cabot, author of The Greater Perfection: the Story of the Gardens at Les Quatre Vents and founder of the Garden Conservancy

December 20, 2007 The Journal News, Life & Style section (Westchester, NY) excerpted from an article by Bill Cary

The Landscape Diaries: Garden of Obsession... (This) very personal and quirky book takes readers along for a funny ride through a childhood of great wealth and privilege as an heir to the Avnet fortune…that eventually led to the parking-lot launch of a Pound Ridge/Stamford, Conn. nursery that’s now considered one of the best sources in the country for bonsai. Against her family’s wishes, she ran away to London (on the final voyage of the Queen Mary, no less) in 1965 to marry Jerome. The book chronicles their wonderful marriage and how they fell into the world of high-end garden design…We also learn lots about the Steinhardt garden and how it came to be, with spectacular four-season photos by (Richard) Felber and Carole Rocherolle.

June 9, 2007, Lexington Herald-Leader (KY) in the Home and Garden Section, Inside/Out. Article by Susan Smith-Durisek

This memoir is a surprising tapestry of an unusually rich life and an extraordinary garden, yet the small stuff with which day-to-day events are built is universally familiar. Stories of loving and losing parents, of family celebrations and the importance of ‘we’ in a marriage, and of personal growth through spirituality and exercise are interwoven with the process Rocherolle and husband Jerome followed in creating their garden and landscaping business, the Shanti Bithi Nursery, and establishing the incredible Steinhardt gardens in Bedford, NY.

Born into wealth, she an heiress to the Avnet fortune and his family residing in a French chateau, they began their garden career together in the early ‘70's selling plants in a deli parking lot. The ensuing years, filled with hard work, world travel and their vision of artful landscaping and attention to small detail were filled with success and yes, obsession. Bonsai, a Japanese Maple collection, rock structures, unique metal-work pieces and gorgeous landscapes are presented in color photos throughout. References to find sources to create your own are included.

This is not an ordinary gardening book, but instead a testament to the creative visions and kinds of gardens that will grow when people follow their passions and walk to the beat of their own hearts.

April 13, 2007 The Greenwich Time (Greenwich, CT) and The Advocate (Stamford & Norwalk, CT) excerpted from an article by Nadia Lerner

When Hurricane Floyd attacked the Steinhardt Gardens in 1999, Carole and Jerome Rocherolle had already spent 10 years creating beauty on this 60 acres in Mount Kisco, NY, the estate of philanthropists Judy and Michael Steinhardt. The severe damage was one of their most heartbreaking moments. It was a challenge to restore the site - one the couple has documented in the recently published The Landscape Diaries: Garden of Obsession. The Steinhardt Gardens is now one of America's foremost gardens.

The book's more than 100 photos include views of the Maple Garden, with hundreds of cultivars from around the world; stunning flower gardens; myriad vistas, ponds and pathways; and the estate's exotic animals… The book contains Carole's often comical and surprisingly honest reflections of how she and her husband surmounted a variety of life's hurdles.

April 15, 2007 The Lacrosse Tribune, Home section (La Crosse, WI)
excerpted from an article by Geri Parlin

The Landscape Diaries: Garden of Obsession … is a charming look at life in the garden from the perspective of a couple just starting out in a marriage. Along the way, we meet their relatives and their meditation group, and discover a connection to the soil that grows and prospers over the years. And we are treated to the beautiful photographs that document their 19 years of work in the Steinhardt Gardens in Mount Kisco, NY. Carole’s descriptions of [her husband] Jerome’s single-minded purpose and passion provide some of the funniest moments in the book.

Comments about the garden:

"They have mastered the painting of flowingly cohesive living pictures throughout both woodland and meadows using a mind boggling palette of plants.”
       ~Marco Polo Stufano of Wave Hill

"The time has come when natural beauty is worth more than gold. Jerome, your work at the Steinhardt Garden proves this.”
       ~Don Shadow of Shadow Nursery

"There is delight for the plantsman and gardener at every turn.”
       ~Barry Yinger of Asiatica Nursery

"Such a landscape may sound like pure fantasy, but the real wonder is that it seems almost natural, like a happy dream.”
       ~House & Garden magazine March, 2006

"The Steinhardt Gardens are a fantastic horticultural extravaganza. The collections of rare plants — cultivars of Japanese maples, ferns, conifers, magnolias, woodland ephemerals and more — are all tucked into a beautiful sweeping Westchester landscape with a lovely romantic aspect especially created with artful water features. Imagine all of this now populated with an astounding array of exotic birds and animals and you have the Steinhardt Gardens — a wonderland of plants, animals and the delight of the exotic from around the world. It is one of the great private gardens in America at this time. I always enjoy being there and always learn a new plant or a new horticultural tip from their fabulous gardeners . . . Visit there if you can!”
       ~ Kim Tripp, Ph.D., Director of the New York
          Botanical Garden

Gayatri Carole Rocherolle, along with her husband, Jerome, is co-owner of Shanti Bithi Nursery, one of the largest growers and importers of Bonsai in the United States. A former assistant curator of the Joan and Lester Avnet Art Collection, Carole has been designing gardens with her husband for the past 30 years. They have traveled to more than 40 countries, visiting gardens and nurseries in search of unusual material for their garden designs. Photos and articles about the Rocherolles’ work have appeared in The New York Times, The Financial Times (London), House & Garden, Garden Design, Architectural Digest (Germany), and Vogue Country Living (Australia). The author has been documenting the development of the Steinhardt Gardens for the past 19 years. This is her first book.

Richard Felber is a professional landscape and garden photographer who has been photographing the Steinhardt Gardens for the past 13 years. His work is featured in Beautiful American Rose Gardens, Potted Gardens, An Affair with a House, and many other books. His photographs appear frequently in House & Garden, Garden Design, Martha Stewart Living, Metropolitan Home, and Real Simple, as well as other prominent magazines.

View excerpts from The Landscape Diaries:

The Nursery
La Rocherolle
Getting Started
Hurricane Floyd

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