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Embroidered Ground: Revisiting the Garden

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A memorable book about making a renowned garden work

In Embroidered Ground: Revisiting the Garden, the acclaimed author and garden designer Page Dickey writes of the pitfalls, challenges, successes, and myriad pleasures of the twenty-nineyear-long process of creating her own remarkable garden, Duck Hill, in upstate New York. This winning book details the evolution of one especially loved and cared-for space: its failed schemes and realized dreams, and the wisdom gained in ...

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Embroidered Ground: Revisiting the Garden

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Overview

A memorable book about making a renowned garden work

In Embroidered Ground: Revisiting the Garden, the acclaimed author and garden designer Page Dickey writes of the pitfalls, challenges, successes, and myriad pleasures of the twenty-nineyear-long process of creating her own remarkable garden, Duck Hill, in upstate New York. This winning book details the evolution of one especially loved and cared-for space: its failed schemes and realized dreams, and the wisdom gained in contending with an ever evolving work of art. The author shares her very personal views on what contributes to a garden’s success—structure, fragrance, the play of light and shadow, patterns and textures, multiseasonal plants. She writes of gardening with a husband, with wildlife, with dogs and chickens. And she grapples with how to adapt her garden—as we can adapt ours—to change in the years ahead.

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Editorial Reviews

Dominique Browning
Embroidered Ground is a sweet, tender love story about how gardens and gardeners age and adapt, each to the other.
—The New York Times
From the Publisher
Praise for Breaking Ground:

“The work here is playful, undaunted by the classical tradition and far more concerned with sensory experience than academic correctness . . . The excellent text and pictures . . . manage to extract from these gardens valuable lessons.” —MICHAEL POLLAN, The New York Times Book Review

 

Praise for Embroidered Ground:

Embroidered Ground is a real delight, conveying Page Dickey’s passion for gardening as well as the hard graft and blossoming progress of the garden at Duck Hill. A true inspiration, and a beautifully written book.” —Jenny Uglow, author of A Little History of British Gardening

“Page Dickey is part of the very best tradition of garden writing: her voice is literary and informed, but also personal and unpretentious. It’s a delight to read this book about Duck Hill revisited, and about how gardens, and gardening, change over the years. Reading Embroidered Ground is like strolling through a favorite garden with a favorite friend.” —Roxana Robinson, author of Cost

“[Dickey] cast[s] a spell . . . Embroidered Ground is a sweet, tender love story about how gardens and gardeners age and adapt, each to the other.” —Dominique Browning, The New York Times

“[Embroidered Ground] is divided into a series of short essays on a wide range of subjects, each building on the others until a full picture of the garden, and the gardener’s life, emerges. Dickey writes about learning to share the garden with a new plant-loving husband and their ideas for simplifying the garden as they grow older. In her view, a garden, at its best, is like the embroidery of the book’s title: ‘the results of a passion, our joyous individual efforts of expression in color, pattern, and texture, woven with leaves and flowers, in partnership with nature.’” —Country Gardens

“Page Dickey [is a] legendary writer and gardener . . . In Embroidered Ground she offers tips . . . and wisdom: how to share your garden with a new partner who might have a different style, the beauty of the unmown, the long view (planting for decades) . . . It’s a book to read, dreaming of spring.” —Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

“Dickey employs a range of voices, often ethereal . . . But she is razory-wicked when facing enemies: bindweed, barberry, Norway maple, Ailanthus, bittersweet . . . There is much sage advice, on sightlines, garden bones, and hedges to frame and enclose . . . And she loves her garden as if it were a child—with joy, distress, responsibility, guilt—which is the most beautiful thing of all.” —Peter Lewis, The Barnes and Noble Review

The Barnes & Noble Review

The steam had run out of Page Dickey's trowel, or so she writes at the start of this leisurely tour through the precincts and pleasures of her three-acre garden in North Salem, New York. Duck Hill, as it is known, is now in its third decade and helped secure Dickey's place as a modestly celebrated gardening authority, even as it ate her knees and tormented her lower back. She is justly proud of her accomplishment, wishing once again to take us there, as she did in Duck Hill Journal, to see what we shall see. Now seventy years old, Dickey aims to simplify, simplify -- but if William Atherton's lovely, fine-line drawings are any indication, she hasn't made much headway. Each of Embroidered Ground's chapters is as compact as a sports car -- "Witch Hazels," "The Chicken House," "Paths" -- yet without any sense of rush. She lingers in the right places, explains how they came to be, introduces the citizenry: feverfew, dogwood, lady's mantle, sweet rocket; Pennisetum, Deschampsia, Hakonechloa; enough Latinates to rekindle the Punic Wars.

Dickey employs a range of voices, often ethereal, sometimes fusty. "Prim" is a favorite word, and an atmosphere of chilled wine and tea sandwiches dominates; one longs for Eleanor Perényi to come swinging through the garden gate, glass of Scotch and cigarette in one hand, salty opinions in the other. But she is razory-wicked when facing enemies: bindweed, barberry, Norway maple, Ailanthus, bittersweet. A sensualist -- fragrance undoes her -- she can also be pert, as when "spherical heads of Allium christophii thrust and explode" through a wiry tangle. Ba-boom!

There is much sage advice, on sightlines, garden bones, and hedges to frame and enclose -- Margery Fish, who wrote We Made a Garden, could be Dickey's stylistic and professional mentor -- and flowers, lots and lots of flowers, about which she can be existentially tender: one Viburnum "I can only describe as old-lady pink…the soft, pale rose hue of faded aprons and caked face powder." And she loves her garden as if it were a child -- with joy, distress, responsibility, guilt -- which is the most beautiful thing of all.

--Peter Lewis

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374256326
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 2/15/2011
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Page Dickey is a garden writer, lecturer, and designer. She is the author of Duck Hill Journal: A Year in a Country Garden and Breaking Ground. She has written on garden design for House & Garden, House Beautiful, and Elle Decor.

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