14 years ago I made a film called “Busman’s Holiday” on the outrageously beautiful French West Indian Island of Saint Barthélemy, or as the gringo might know it, Saint Barths.
It took my father Larry Nathanson years to transform 7 acres of the island’s most prime real estate – David Letterman to the left, Harrison Ford to the right – from a baron, rocky and jaunty vantage point (with the islands best views), to a bed of fresh soil, laying in wait for the corps d’elite in specimen, tropical plants. After 2 years of just importing soil, he began to design lush, carefully landscaped getaway with tropical coconut groves, lines of Royal Palms and tens of thousands of the most magnificent plants one could imagine. The homeowner was one of Larry’s oldest clients – the pioneer of Womens Wear, Liz Claiborne.
Almost 2 decades earlier, my Dad landscaped her 1 office in Manhattan when she had less than 5 employees – no joke. By 1981 Liz Claiborne had gone public, made the Fortune 500, with retail sales of more than a billion dollars – the first company founded by a woman to be listed in the Fortune 500. By then Larry had a handful of full-time employees solely as caretakers for all of her homes and offices, dotted throughout NY, NJ, & MT.
In 1999 Larry was over the major hump – the trees had been planted. He had created perhaps his greatest work as a landscape architect – Liz’s garden in St. Baths. For two years he imported soil. Two years. He then spent a few more importing the most beautiful, specimen tropical trees – and this is the best part – He painted her property with them. Yes, there was an outline, but the dad had always viewed this like an artwork, like a painting….it was his style, developed by 30 years of doing this. The results were out of this world.
Now the work really began…growing and pruning. This is when the landscape really begins to take shape – a living, growing piece of work, formed by my father’s eye, hands, and pruning shears.
The first time I visited the property was the first time I brought my camera – where we spent a week documenting what my father had accomplished. The garden has survived many tragic hurricanes, full-time caretakers, and I hear perhaps some new owners. (Liz passed a few years ago, and her husband now has had the property on the market – I believe). The garden, the grounds, the landscaped terrain is still there. And we will always have this film, “Busman’s Holiday”.
I’ve been culling through thousands of old photos and for the first time since they were taken, I come across these photo’s of me filming. Good times. Great times. I love you, Dad.