C. Z. Guest

Gardening columnist, fashion icon and emblem of American high society

Lucy Douglas "C.Z." Cochrane, socialite and gardening writer: born Boston, Massachusetts 19 February 1920; married 1947 Winston Guest (died 1982; one son, one daughter); died Old Westbury, New York 8 November 2003.

Style, C.Z. Guest once observed, "is about surviving, about having been through a lot and making it look easy". Tribulation, it is fair to say, was not the characteristic most commonly associated with her gilded existence. But style she possessed in yachtloads.

Through her rich and varied life - as skilled horsewoman, gardening columnist, fashion icon and noted beauty, and friend or relative to everyone from Truman Capote and Winston Churchill to the British monarchy - style was the constant. If New York society had a queen in the middle and late 20th century, it was her.

She was born Lucy Cochrane, the second of five children of Alexander Cochrane, a wealthy Boston investment banker. To her siblings however, she was "Sissy", a moniker that quickly contracted to "C.Z.". Her course in life was quickly set. She came out in 1937, and two years later was voted "glamour girl" of the Massachusetts North Shore, and for a few years toyed with showbusiness - if only, as she later remarked, "to be a successful enough actress to get myself thrown out of the Social Register". By her own admission, her thespian talent was zero.

Guest's looks however were more than noteworthy. She was an American classic along the lines of Grace Kelly, blonde, patrician and martini-cool. Her beauty, the writer Jill Gerston once noted,

is indigenous to socially registered enclaves like Palm Beach and Southampton, a sporty, outdoorsy look that eschews make-up, hairspray and anything trendy. She has an outspoken, coolly self-assured manner and a throaty, well-modulated voice with a trace of a British accent.

The British aspect extended well beyond her looks. Her husband was Winston Frederick Churchill Guest - not only an international polo star and heir to the Phipps steel fortune, but also second cousin to the greatest scion of Britain's greatest political dynasty. Later the couple became close friends with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, who became godparents to their two children.

By the time of her marriage in 1947, C.Z. already seemed to know everybody. The ceremony took place at Ernest Hemingway's house in Cuba, with the author serving as best man. For more than three decades, until Winston Guest's death in 1982, she travelled the world with her husband, with a place by right in the great social salons of the day.

In her latter years she gained a new and different kind of celebrity, as a gardening columnist. From her youth, Guest had been interested in gardening, and to the Windsors she would dispense advice on matters horticultural. But after a riding accident in 1976, she turned to writing about gardening in earnest.

A column for the New York Post (a rather downmarket outlet for so upmarket a lady) began in 1978. She wrote simply but authoritatively - a style evident in her best-selling First Garden of 1987, complete with illustrations by her "very dear friend" Cecil Beaton and an introduction by another "dear, dear friend", the author Truman Capote. There followed a children's book, Tiny Green Thumbs (2000).

At its height, the column was syndicated in 350 papers across the United States. Over the years, C.Z. Guest on gardening developed into a minor industry, with its own website and branded accessories for the gardener who wanted a dash of elegance as well.

"A cool, vanilla lady," was how Capote described her, an image re-inforced in 1982 when she appeared on the cover of Time magazine, as emblem of American high society. The article sealed Guest into the national subconscious, part of an untouchable, eternal horsey set, clad in jodhpurs, patrolling a beautiful Long Island estate on shimmering summer afternoons, trailing handsome hunting dogs in her wake.

Despite her death, the family's traditions are in good hands. Her daughter Cornelia in 1982 was anointed "Deb of the Year" by Life magazine, and "Deb of the Decade" four years later. Following in her mother's footsteps, Cornelia is an accomplished horsewoman, a minor celebrity and an indefatigable socialiser in her own right.

Rupert Cornwell

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Copywriter / Direct Response Copywriter

£20k plus sales linked bonus. : Guru Careers: We are seeking a Copywriter to j...

Recruitment Genius: Accounting Technician

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has bec...

Guru Careers: 3D Creative Designer

Up to £26k DOE: Guru Careers: A Junior / Mid-Level 3D Creative Designer is nee...

Recruitment Genius: Ecommerce Website Digital Marketing Manager - Fashion / Retail

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You'll be joining a truly talen...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen