American Eden: From Monticello to Central Park to Our Backyards: What Our Gardens Tell Us about Who We Are
  • Alternative view 1 of American Eden: From Monticello to Central Park to Our Backyards: What Our Gardens Tell Us about Who We Are
  • Alternative view 2 of American Eden: From Monticello to Central Park to Our Backyards: What Our Gardens Tell Us about Who We Are

American Eden: From Monticello to Central Park to Our Backyards: What Our Gardens Tell Us about Who We Are

by Wade Graham
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

The story of our nation and ourselves—as told through our country's most significant gardens and their creators

From Frederick Law Olmsted to Richard Neutra, Michelle Obama to our neighbors, Americans throughout history have revealed something of themselves—their personalities, desires, and beliefs—in the gardens

…  See more details below

Overview

The story of our nation and ourselves—as told through our country's most significant gardens and their creators

From Frederick Law Olmsted to Richard Neutra, Michelle Obama to our neighbors, Americans throughout history have revealed something of themselves—their personalities, desires, and beliefs—in the gardens they create. Rooted in the time and place of their making, as much as in the minds and identities of their makers, gardens mirror the struggles and energies of a changing society. Melding biography, history, and cultural commentary in a one-of-a-kind narrative, American Eden presents a dynamic, sweeping look at this country's landscapes and the visionaries behind them.

Monticello's gardens helped Jefferson reconcile his conflicted feelings about slavery—and take his mind off his increasing debt. Edith Wharton's gardens made her feel more European and superior to her wealthy but insufficiently sophisticated countrymen. Martha Stewart's how-to instructions helped bring Americans back into their gardens, while at the same time stoking and exploiting our anxieties about social class. Isamu Noguchi's and Robert Smithson's experiments reinvigorated the age-old exchange between art and the garden.

American Eden offers an inclusive definition of the garden, considering intentional landscapes that range from domestic kitchen gardens to city parks and national parks, suburban backyards and golf courses, public plazas and Manhattan's High Line park, reclaimed from freight train tracks. And it exposes the overlap between garden-making and painting, literature, and especially architecture—the garden's inseparable sibling—to reveal the deep interconnections between the arts and their most inspired practitioners.

Moving deftly through time and place across America's diverse landscapes—from Revolutionary-era Virginia to turn-of-the-century Chicago to 1960s suburban California—and featuring a diverse cast of landscape-makers—whether artists, architects, or housewives, amateurs or professionals, robber barons, politicians, reformers, or dreamers—Wade Graham vividly unfolds the larger cultural history through more personal dramas.

Beautifully illustrated with color and black-and-white images, American Eden is at once a different kind of garden book and a different kind of American history, one that offers a compelling, untold story—a saga that mirrors and illuminates our nation's invention, and constant reinvention, of itself.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Europeans weren't the first gardeners in the New World. Early 17th century colonial settlers found that Native Americans were already planting small plots near their homes. By the following century, however, New England and Virginia colonists had far outstripped such rudimentary efforts. Wade Graham's American Eden displays the continuing development of gardening in our country from their experimental tracts to those of Martha Stewart, Michelle Obama, and backyard naturalists. Copiously illustrated, this 440-page history places this private passion within the contexts of its times.

Publishers Weekly
From Jefferson's founding garden, Monticello, to Martha Stewart's Turkey Hill, American gardens have been revealing self-portraits that reflect their owners aspirations and anxieties, cultural legacies and passing fashions. In his far-ranging survey, designer and historian Graham unveils the aesthetic, political, psychological, and ethical dimensions of the American garden. This is a world in which hedges, lawns, parks, and cemeteries are revealing displays of national identity, class distinction, and political correctness. Our gardens are a pastiche of classical pastoral ideals, the 19th-century European grand tour, and the distinctly American tension between our democratic ideals and aristocratic pretensions. Graham is able to gently mock the fashions of history while astutely observing that we are still as vulnerable to gardening fads today. After more than 250 years, the American gardening tradition has bequeathed to us treasured public parks, suburban sprawl, Kentucky bluegrass lawns in the desert, and kitchen gardens at the White House. Graham's history is a fascinating and illuminating tour of this American landscape. Includes extensive notes and bibliography. More than 70 color and b&w illus. (Apr.)
John Steele Gordon
“Mr. Graham recounts his tale with considerable verve and a vast erudition in the history of gardening and the arts generally…. Among much else, Mr. Graham shows us that the history of how our nation grew can be found in what it has grown.”
Ann Herold
“We are what we plant, L.A.-based writer Wade Graham posits in his history of gardens. When he isn’t explaining the economic and cultural influences, he crafts fascinating profiles…. An engaging look at our own pieces of paradise.”
Tricia Springstubb
“A shrewd, comprehensive and often entertaining guide…. Sure to be a scholarly as well as popular resource for years to come…. And its illustrations and photos tour of some of the world’s most ravishing gardens.”
Charles Donelan
“The most comprehensive and readable history ever written about the men and women who created the environments in which we now live…. will change the way you look not only at gardens, but also at American history and the hybrid world-part nature, part design-in which we live.”
Kirkus Reviews

Scrupulous history of American gardens and the imaginative creators who made them possible.

Los Angeles–based garden designer and environmental writer Graham shares a wealth of knowledge on the genesis and development of America's most striking landscapes. Each a "miniature Utopia," these leafy environs are a reflection of their respective architects. The author ardently describes the first garden creations of the 1600s, then moves on to the Arts & Crafts romantic naturalism movement in the mid-19th century and Martha Stewart's unique brand of house-and-garden style, which is interwoven with business savvy and "controlled enthusiasm." Graham's visit to the panoramic "founding garden" of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, derived from British poet Alexander Pope's "cutting-edge" landscaping approach, provides an intimate history of the third president's life and boundless passion as a dedicated architecture and flora aficionado. The planned landscaping influence of "aesthetic giant" Andrew Jackson Downing paved the way for the blossoming genius of Frederick Law Olmsted, who, in collaboration with architect Calvert Vaux, brought "country to the city" in the redesign of New York's Prospect Park and Central Park and Boston's Emerald Necklace, among others. Graham points to the greening of New York's Chelsea and West Village neighborhoods, the installation of Manhattan's unique aerial greenway, High Line Park, and Michelle Obama's White House kitchen garden as examples of a modern "return to agriculture" movement. Accented by paintings, photographs and drawings, the author's appealing commentary introduces a distinctive line of gardeners and foliage engineers whose work has become timeless.

A bright, comprehensive horticultural celebration written with a fine eye for detail.

Christopher Schoppa
A beautifully illustrated volume, perfect for dipping into over and over again, American Eden will educate you about all manner of gardening history and perhaps just a bit about yourself.
—The Washington Post

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061583421
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/05/2011
Pages:
480
Product dimensions:
7.40(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.30(d)

What People are saying about this

Charles Donelan

“The most comprehensive and readable history ever written about the men and women who created the environments in which we now live…. will change the way you look not only at gardens, but also at American history and the hybrid world-part nature, part design-in which we live.”

Ann Herold

“We are what we plant, L.A.-based writer Wade Graham posits in his history of gardens. When he isn’t explaining the economic and cultural influences, he crafts fascinating profiles…. An engaging look at our own pieces of paradise.”

Tricia Springstubb

“A shrewd, comprehensive and often entertaining guide…. Sure to be a scholarly as well as popular resource for years to come…. And its illustrations and photos tour of some of the world’s most ravishing gardens.”

John Steele Gordon

“Mr. Graham recounts his tale with considerable verve and a vast erudition in the history of gardening and the arts generally…. Among much else, Mr. Graham shows us that the history of how our nation grew can be found in what it has grown.”

Read More

Meet the Author

Wade Graham is a Los Angeles-based garden designer, historian,and writer whose work on the environment, landscape, urbanism, and the arts hasappeared in The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Outside, andother publications.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >