One day, when Flower was only a gleam in my mind, I met Cornelia Guest on the treadmill next to mine at a small New York hotel. We chatted in that easy way that travelers who know they’ll never see each other again have. Then she asked what I was up to in the city, and I shared with her my dream of starting a magazine about flowers. Her first response was, “You mean there’s not one?” Her next response was to encourage me heartily and share with me about her new adventures in gardening since she had inherited Templeton, the iconic estate of her late mother, C. Z. Guest.
As we wrapped up our chat, almost as an afterthought, she scribbled her cell phone number on a scrap of paper and mentioned, “If you do get this magazine started, you’re welcome to come visit my gardens and photograph if you’d like.” I kept that scrap of paper in my wallet for a year; then when we were planning our first issue, I called Cornelia. She remembered me and immediately agreed to allow us into her world to produce a feature. This developed into a running column called Be My Guest, in which Cornelia invited Flower readers into her home and gardens for seasonal entertaining tips and inspiration. As much, if not more, a part of her ambience as the heirloom china, Sargent portrait of her father and grandmother, and elegantly patinated interior were her beloved pets—an adorable and varied assortment of rescue dogs and one very emphatic spotted miniature donkey named Madonna.
Today, Cornelia is settling into her new domain, a beautiful piece of property in Columbia County, New York, where she has turned her passion for loving and helping animals into Artemis Farm Rescue for miniature donkeys and horses. She’s planning and planting her gardens (organic, of course); resumed acting and was just recently seen in the revival of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks series; continues to design, produce, and market her chic cruelty-free handbags; and is working on an autobiography.
By Margot Shaw | Photography by Michael Mundy