Slow Love at the U.S. Botanic Garden

I had the pleasure last week of meeting Dominique Browning, the former executive editor of House & Garden magazine, which Condé Nast shuttered in 2007, giving just four days’ notice to its employees. That was at least a little better than our experience with Washington Spaces — we arrived at work on Dec. 4, to be told it was our last day. Someone had helpfully placed packing boxes on our desks while we were being told of our fate in the conference room.

But I won’t dwell on past unpleasantries, and Dominique isn’t, either. She wrote a lyrical book called Slow Love: How I Lost my Job, Put on My Pajamas & Found Happiness (Atlas & Co., $23), which describes her recovery from the “rage, fury, despair, and raw fear” that came from losing her job.

Dominique Browning at the U.S. Botanic Garden

Gardening was key to her healing process, and what better locale to talk about it than the U.S. Botanic Garden?

Trish Donnally, my former editor in chief, came with me to hear her talk.

“I’ve always had something to define my days — a reason to get up in the morning,” Dominique said. “Alone at home, in the silence, I realized I had a lot that I had to face. … I was really depressed. I was flattened.”

But after she ultimately got out of her PJ’s (her love of which comes up many times throughout the book), sold her beloved house and garden, and moved to Rhode Island, she describes an awakening. Building her new garden on the marshland of Rhode Island, which is dramatically different from her “very typical Northeastern suburban garden” in Pelham, N.Y., is sort of a metaphor for how she recreated her life.

“The main thing is I realized I could do whatever I wanted,” she said. Gardening “just was a very, very happy experience and a healing experience of getting my hands into the earth.”

“Slow love” is not slow living, she said, but the wonders you get from it — the new details you notice from books, butterflies — even Bach. Her writing is almost like music, it’s so pleasing to read.

I thought I would demonstrate the power of flowers with several images I took before her lecture on the grounds of the Botanic Garden. The garden makes you see familiar landmarks in a new way, which I think is how Dominique could summarize her book.

The Capitol Dome vistas are my favorite:

The National Museum of the American Indian:

Even a bland federal agency looks better from the garden:

Here are some other scenes. Seeing as I have a black thumb, loved only by weeds, I will need to come back here often for inspiration.

Dominique’s blog is called Slow Love Life, where you can also buy her book.

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Comments

  1. What a great opportunity to meet Dominique Browning in the beautiful backdrop of the US Botanical Gardens. I have not had a chance to read her most recent book but her previous, Paths of Desire, about her home and garden in NY while she was an editor at HB, is not that far from the same philosophy.

    One of my favorite, overlooked DC spots for garden inspiration is the National Arboretum. A great place for kids to with huge koi fish to feed.