Frances Tenenbaum of Cambridge and Aquinnah will be honored on April 12 by the New York Horticultural Society for her many years of promoting an interest in horticulture. A longtime editor at Houghton Mifflin in Boston, her specialty has been books on every aspect of popular horticulture and landscaping and she has gained a reputation as one of the nation’s leading garden editors. When the Garden Writers Association of America recently listed the 25 most important garden books of the last 25 years, four were Houghton Mifflin books that she had acquired and edited.
She was responsible some years ago for the republication in handsome format with illustrations by Childe Hassam, of Celia Thaxter’s An Island Garden about Miss Thaxter’s garden on Appledore in New Hampshire’s Isles of Shoals. It was a book first published by Houghton 100 years ago.
Mrs. Tenenbaum was also responsible for the republication and updating of 45 Taylor garden guides written by former Brooklyn Botanical Garden botanist Norman Taylor. The first of these had been published in 1936 by Houghton Mifflin. When the updated single-volume, 464-page version of Taylor’s Encyclopedia of Garden Plants was published in 2003 with Mrs. Tenenbaum as its editor, Judy Lowe, reviewing that book in the Christian Science Monitor, of which she was then garden editor, remarked that she would trust and buy any gardening book simply on the strength of Frances Tenenbaum’s name on the cover.
In addition to the upcoming honor from the New York Horticultural Society, Mrs. Tenenbaum has received awards from the Massachusetts and American Horticultural Societies. She has been an Aquinnahseasonal resident since 1969 and is herself the author of, among others, Gardening with Wild Flowers, a book that grew out of work she had done in her own Lighthouse Road garden.
Her interest in gardening was nurtured by her mother, and began when Frances was a child growing up on Long Island. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan and received a master’s degree from the Columbia School of Journalism. Over the years, she has been a freelance journalist as well as a book editor and writer, freelancing for the New York Herald Tribune, among other publications.
Following in their mother’s literary tradition, her daughter, Jane, is a book designer in Cambridge and her son, David, is a science journalist and book editor in Madison, Wisc. Her husband, Frank, is deceased.
Mrs. Tenenbaum’s honor will be awarded at the 129-year-old horticultural society’s annual gala on April 12. Also being heralded at the event will be interior designer David Easton, whom Architectural Digest has listed nine times as among the top 100 interior designers in the world; Stephen Orr, editorial director for gardening at Martha Stewart Living and the former garden editor of House & Garden; and Broadway writer-director Alex Timbers.
by Phyllis Méras