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Across Party Lines

Mar Jennings, the host of WTNH/Channel 8’s Mar Jennings Home & Garden Show, who has been touted by many as the “next Martha Stewart,” hosts a party in his small, manicured garden almost every week during the summer. “I love to have people here,” Mar says of his quarter acre in Westport, which boasts saucer-size peonies, creamy-white rosebuds trimmed in pale pink, honeysuckle and balletic lilacs. “I like for people to have a reason to dress up,” he says. “Plus, women walking around in heels is a great way to aerate the lawn.”

His home, a “vintage” new build just outside the center of town, is dressed much like his revelers: in head-to-toe designer accessories. “The interior and exterior of my house cross-pollinate,” Mar says of his house, which is furnished with antiques and classical pieces and is supplied with fresh, seasonal bouquets from the garden. “The colors inside reflect the colors outside. Whether I have twenty or sixty people over, I always give a complete house and garden tour because my guests usually want to hear the story behind both.”

Mar’s own story began an decade ago when he bought the three-story colonial townhouse and added a simple sixteen-by-ten-foot potting shed/garden studio in the rear of the property to complement the home’s architectural style. Today, it serves as a backdrop for segments of Mar’s show and the focal point of many of his soirees. It’s stocked meticulously with the usual outdoor essentials—terra cotta pots from Oliver’s and Greenfield Hill nurseries in Fairfield, fresh-cut flowers, potted plants, tools and gardening reference books. A few key pieces, such as a cupboard that he got from his grandmother (which holds flower-arranging essentials) and a picture window that Mar salvaged from a teardown in Weston make it unique. When  partially opened, the shed’s Dutch door serves as an idyllic spot in which to serve Jennings’ favorite Picnic Salad along with his proprietary drinks, the Mar-tini and Bubble Bee Summer Cocktail. “The potting shed is the anchor of every party,” Mar says. “And its carriage house and Dutch doors are open when it’s nice outside. It’s where I do my potting and other garden projects, and where I store all my container plants in the winter.”

The garden is planted predominantly with evergreens, over 500 boxwood and deliberate shots of color. (Mar is particularly fond of the small snowflake candytuft, the pink rhododendron, the white dogwood and the Amethyst Falls wisteria.)

In the springtime, the delicate pinky-white flowers of the crabapple tree, planted in memory of a dear friend, blossom; in the summer, it’s lupine, allium and clematis that bring the trellis on the side of the shed to life; in autumn, when the leaves fall, the blue and pink blooms of the hydrangea are cut and transferred to window boxes and the espaliered Fuji apple tree is in bloom; and in winter, a white mantle of snow cloaks the Puckish statue of pipe-playing Pan. “The garden keeps giving year round,” Mar says. “Even in the dead of winter, I’m out in the yard cutting hemlock and holly to make arrangements to give as holiday gifts.” Mar adds, “My best reward is to share my garden. It allows me to relax and reflect. It gives me a sense of accomplishment.”

“What I enjoy about gardening is the giving and taking, the nurturing and the rewards for my hard work,” he says of the property that once served as the garden for the entire neighborhood, formerly named Brookside Park. Mar adds, “This is meant to be.”

Greenfield Hill Nursery, Fairfield, 259-6828
Mar Jennings Home & Garden; marjennings.com
Oliver Nurseries, Fairfield, 259-5609