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Gardens of the Heartland
     

Gardens of the Heartland

by Laura C. Martin
 
A delight for everyone who appreciates a beautifully planned garden, this lavishly illustrated history and traveler's guide presents 30 outstanding examples in the Midwest, all open to visitors.

From the notable garden at Cranbrook in Michigan, inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, to the extravagant displays of color at Cantigny, near Chicago, to a simple

Overview

A delight for everyone who appreciates a beautifully planned garden, this lavishly illustrated history and traveler's guide presents 30 outstanding examples in the Midwest, all open to visitors.

From the notable garden at Cranbrook in Michigan, inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, to the extravagant displays of color at Cantigny, near Chicago, to a simple prairie garden where a nearly extinct landscape is preserved, this captivating history and traveler's guide lavishly portrays for the first time the diverse gardens of America's midwestern region. In all, thirty gardens open to visitors are illustrated in 215 specially commissioned, dazzling photographs and described in a lively, informative text.

The author, Laura C. Martin, leads readers on a memorable tour of the celebrated gardens of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, and Kentucky. The variety is astonishing, ranging from gardens that feature spectacular beds of flowers and magnificent trees to those with more modest plantings that are important for their key role in the development of gardening in the heartland. Included are the illustrious Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, a world-renowned botanical garden; Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens in Akron, Ohio, one of the most heralded estates and garden landscapes in the Midwest; the awesome Minnesota Landscape Arboretum near Minneapolis, where an impressive collection of trees may be seen; and Old World Wisconsin, one of the nation's largest living museums, where heirloom flowers and vegetables are cultivated, to name only a few examples. As the author writes, "Each garden is a world unto itself worthy of visiting time and again."

Arranged by type of garden from botanical and historical to parks, great estates, and arboretums, the narrative traces the history and design of the gardens with an emphasis on the dedicated people who created them. The text also guides the visitor to outstanding areas and plant collections in each garden. Supplementing the narrative, the appendices provide practical advice for the traveler, from suggested tours to seasonal displays; notes about cultivating some of the gardens' inviting plants; and tips for the garden photographer.

The garden tour is profusely illustrated in color by a prize-winning photographer, Allen Rokach, who visited the gardens in several seasons. Thirty-five vintage pictures in black-and-white illustrate their history.

The pleasures of the heartland's gardens have never before been so brilliantly displayed. For the midwesterner and the newcomer alike, this essential treasury is a delight for lovers of gardens everywhere.

Other Details: 250 illustrations, 215 in full color 256 pages 9 3/4 x 9 3/4" Published 1996

which had neither a tree nor an elevation to break their bleakness. There seemed to be an 'unending nothingness' as one passenger expressed it. But as I sat watching, I gradually began to feel a great force arise from these Flat lands, and I knew that here lay something far deeper, far more powerful, than anything I had experienced before in the great out doors.

Pioneers said the grass was so tall you could tie it together over the back of a horse. But tall grasses were not the only plants in this flat wilderness. Here, also, were wildflowers of every hue, like the purple spires of gayfeathers, pink asters, and white wild indigo. Here too was the huge compass flower, whose stems, covered with large yellow Flowers, sometimes grew ten feet tall.

Willa Cather, in My Antonía, wrote: "As I looked about me I felt that the grass was the country, as the water is the sea. The red of the grass made all the great prairie the colour of wine-stains, or of certain seaweeds when they are first washed up. And there was so much motion in it; the whole country seemed, somehow, to be running."

During spring and early summer, bogs, lakes, and marshes commonly covered large areas of this rich land, and the new blades of grass appeared emerald-green in the gentle sunshine. As summer heat matured the grass, it began to change colors until autumn found the prairie golden-brown.

It was not all unbroken grassland, however, as trees created punctuation marks of dark, rich color, particularly along creek banks. Chief among the tree species braving the sunny prairie was the bur oak. More oaks than other types of trees were found in prairies, perhaps because oaks could better withstand the raging fires, both man-made and natural, that were a natural part of the prairie ecosystem. Fire helped keep trees out of the prairies; grasses burn quickly and are not harmed by the same fires that kill the sprouts and seedlings of trees and shrubs.

Raging fires, harsh winters, swarms of mosquitoes in summer, and year-round solitude proved too much for many folk. It was only those to whom the prairie spoke who stayed to find joy and peace in this vast new land.

Even those who stayed found life on the prairie a frustrating and difficult experience. The soil underneath the tallgrass prairie is rich and black and reaches down twelve feet, the result of the decomposition of thousands of years worth of grasses and roots. Unlocking this fertile ground proved to be a monumental task, for the sod formed by the prairie grasses is tight and seemingly unbreakable. It was said that it took five yokes of oxen to break the soil, and the term "sodbusters" was soon a popular nickname for those people who stayed to farm the prairie lands.

Today, tragically, the prairies that originally covered so much of the Midwest have gone the way of many native ecosystems. Only small patches of this once vast grassland remain. Today efforts by conservationists, horticulturists, and botanists have resulted in many successful restoration projects, making it possible to see a vast expanse of the prairie as it once looked.

Not all of the Midwest was formerly covered by prairie. Lakes small and great and the largest river system on the continent also had tremendous influence on the development of the land.

The rich bottomlands along the Mississippi River have attracted people for many centuries. It was here, between 900 and 1200 A.D. close to present-day St. Louis, that the Cahokia Indians built the most elaborate and sophisticated city north of the Rio Grande. Boasting buildings equivalent to modern ten-story structures, a population of more than 30,000 and streets and docks, this civilization dominated trade, manufacturing of tools and jewelry, and large-scale corn farming. The remains of this civilization can be seen at the Cahokia Mounds Historic Site, where a visitor's center houses excellent interpretive displays.

Centuries later and many miles to the north, a different group carved a civilization out of the wilderness. Hundreds of European settlers and pioneers headed west to find a new home in a new land.

The lure of the West seemed irresistible, and during the First few decades of the nineteenth century, people came in droves, not only from the settled regions of America, but also from Europe, particularly from Ireland and Wales, Germany, Scandinavia, and the Slavic countries. For those who traveled westward to the great North Woods, the scenery was quite different from that of the prairies. It was a deep, rich forest full of towering evergreens. With the opening of the Erie Canal, the trip west became much easier, and in the 1830s, steamships on the Great Lakes were a common sight.

By 1840 the midwestern frontier had essentially been settled. In 1836 J. M. Peck, who wrote the New Guide for Emigrants to the West, said, "Such an extent of forest was never before cleared-such a vast Weld of prairie was never before subdued and cultivated by the hand of man in the same short period of time. Cities and towns and villages and counties and states never before rushed into existence and made such giant strides, as upon this Weld."

And so the towns and cities were built and the prairies and forests were subdued, but were never forgotten, for the heart and spirit of the midwesterner still remains close to the land. Today the people of this region have paid tribute to the past and homage to the future by holding firm to their roots and creating public parks and gardens that evoke the natural wonders of the past and imitate, emulate and even perhaps improve on the present-day natural landscape of their region.

The same rich, black earth that made the Midwest the envy of the agricultural world today provides fertile ground for the growth of many kinds of gardens, from the utilitarian herb gardens at New Harmony to the magical children's garden at Michigan State University. The harvest we reap from these gardens is an experience of awe and wonder at the successful union of plants and people-the garden.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Both grandiose and modest (but important) public gardens of the Midwest are featured in this wonderful collaboration. Martin, whose credits include Southern Gardens (LJ 7/93), provides the well-researched narrative. In prose punctuated by 215 stunning color photos by Rokach, director of the Center for Nature Photography in New York, she attentively describes the history, creators, and innovations of 30 gardens in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Some historic black-and-white photos are also included, providing yet another dimension. This work is well organized, grouping gardens by type: botanical, historical, parks, great estates, and arboretums. Useful appendixes include tips on growing specialty plants and photographing flowers, travel information, and suggested tours (in a section grouping the gardens geographically). Essential for gardening collections in the Midwest, this book could also be useful for other gardening/travel collections.Bonnie L. Poquette, Milwaukee

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781558597815
Publisher:
Abbeville Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/28/1996
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
10.08(w) x 10.05(h) x 0.99(d)

Read an Excerpt

Preface

In exploring the gardens of the American Midwest, you will find places that are historically rich, educationally exciting, and visually stunning. Each garden discussed in this volume is a world unto itself, worthy of visiting time and again.

The goal for most of these gardens is to present landscapes pleasing to the eye; to this end, millions of annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs have been planted for the simple reason that they are beautiful to look at. Not all of the gardens included in this volume have expansive displays of Flowers, however. Some, such as Old World Wisconsin and the Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, were included because they represent an important part of the development of gardens in the Midwest.

The people from the midwestern states have created many exciting gardens for myriad reasons: as a tribute to the lovely natural landscapes once found in the region, because the splendor of the garden during the relatively short growing season makes up for the long, cold winters, or just because creating a place of fragrance and beauty is such an innately important thing for so many people.

The Midwest has often been called the "breadbasket" of America because of the miraculous productivity of the soil. It could also very well be called the "garden basket," for this same reason: rich, black soil has made possible some of the most memorable landscapes in America. Gardens of the Heartland is a tribute to the many people who are determined that the heartland of America will remain a region of beauty.

"Everywhere in America there are two pictures, the vanished past beneath the living present." So said Walter Havighurst, in his book TheHeartland. Nowhere is this more true than in the public gardens of America's Midwest. In these celebrated places, the past has taken root and grown and blossomed into the gardens of today.

Introduction

They came from places far and near, the settlers of the Midwest, drawn by the stories of endless prairie, inspired by the idea of rich, black earth. They came for land so fertile it soon became known as "America's breadbasket," and they came for the open spaces so vast that the prairie seemed to touch the sky at the horizon. Once Daniel Boone penetrated the wilderness and found the lush bluegrass country of Kentucky, settlers came in droves down the rivers and the Wilderness Road. For many, though, the lure of the West was strong and they continued their journey.

Although the midwestern region of the United States is composed of many different kinds of ecosystems, from the great North Woods to the Floodplains of the Mississippi River, it was the prairie in its startling expansiveness that caught the attention and imagination of the early settlers.

"The scenery of the prairie is striking, and never fails to cause an exclamation of surprise," wrote J. Plumbe, Jr., in 1839. "The extent of the prospect is exhilarating. The verdure and the Flowers are beautiful, the absence of shade, and consequent appearance of light, produce a gaiety which animate the beholder."

This exhilarating prairie, stretching for hundreds of miles, covering acre after numberless acre, was the jewel of the American Midwest. This grassland was so stunning that the European immigrants who came here wrote and talked of it incessantly. To some, it was the most beautiful landscape they had ever seen; to others, the vast open land was frightening and intimidating. To all, the prairie was an experience never to be forgotten.

Some found the solitude overwhelming. Washington Irving, who traveled through the prairies in the late 1830s, wrote, "To one unaccustomed to it, there is something inexpressibly lonely in the solitude of the prairie." Jens Jensen, noted landscape architect from Chicago and advocate of the "Prairie Style," wrote of the landscape in a different vein:

I watched the miles and miles of Flat Nebraska prairie come into view. My fellow passengers expressed themselves as being bored with the monotony of these vast plains which had neither a tree nor an elevation to break their bleakness. There seemed to be an 'unending nothingness' as one passenger expressed it. But as I sat watching, I gradually began to feel a great force arise from these Flat lands, and I knew that here lay something far deeper, far more powerful, than anything I had experienced before in the great out doors.

Pioneers said the grass was so tall you could tie it together over the back of a horse. But tall grasses were not the only plants in this flat wilderness. Here, also, were wildflowers of every hue, like the purple spires of gayfeathers, pink asters, and white wild indigo. Here too was the huge compass flower, whose stems, covered with large yellow Flowers, sometimes grew ten feet tall.

Willa Cather, in My Antonía, wrote: "As I looked about me I felt that the grass was the country, as the water is the sea. The red of the grass made all the great prairie the colour of wine-stains, or of certain seaweeds when they are first washed up. And there was so much motion in it; the whole country seemed, somehow, to be running."

During spring and early summer, bogs, lakes, and marshes commonly covered large areas of this rich land, and the new blades of grass appeared emerald-green in the gentle sunshine. As summer heat matured the grass, it began to change colors until autumn found the prairie golden-brown.

It was not all unbroken grassland, however, as trees created punctuation marks of dark, rich color, particularly along creek banks. Chief among the tree species braving the sunny prairie was the bur oak. More oaks than other types of trees were found in prairies, perhaps because oaks could better withstand the raging fires, both man-made and natural, that were a natural part of the prairie ecosystem. Fire helped keep trees out of the prairies; grasses burn quickly and are not harmed by the same fires that kill the sprouts and seedlings of trees and shrubs.

Raging fires, harsh winters, swarms of mosquitoes in summer, and year-round solitude proved too much for many folk. It was only those to whom the prairie spoke who stayed to find joy and peace in this vast new land.

Even those who stayed found life on the prairie a frustrating and difficult experience. The soil underneath the tallgrass prairie is rich and black and reaches down twelve feet, the result of the decomposition of thousands of years worth of grasses and roots. Unlocking this fertile ground proved to be a monumental task, for the sod formed by the prairie grasses is tight and seemingly unbreakable. It was said that it took five yokes of oxen to break the soil, and the term "sodbusters" was soon a popular nickname for those people who stayed to farm the prairie lands.

Today, tragically, the prairies that originally covered so much of the Midwest have gone the way of many native ecosystems. Only small patches of this once vast grassland remain. Today efforts by conservationists, horticulturists, and botanists have resulted in many successful restoration projects, making it possible to see a vast expanse of the prairie as it once looked.

Not all of the Midwest was formerly covered by prairie. Lakes small and great and the largest river system on the continent also had tremendous influence on the development of the land.

The rich bottomlands along the Mississippi River have attracted people for many centuries. It was here, between 900 and 1200 A.D. close to present-day St. Louis, that the Cahokia Indians built the most elaborate and sophisticated city north of the Rio Grande. Boasting buildings equivalent to modern ten-story structures, a population of more than 30,000 and streets and docks, this civilization dominated trade, manufacturing of tools and jewelry, and large-scale corn farming. The remains of this civilization can be seen at the Cahokia Mounds Historic Site, where a visitor's center houses excellent interpretive displays.

Centuries later and many miles to the north, a different group carved a civilization out of the wilderness. Hundreds of European settlers and pioneers headed west to find a new home in a new land.

The lure of the West seemed irresistible, and during the First few decades of the nineteenth century, people came in droves, not only from the settled regions of America, but also from Europe, particularly from Ireland and Wales, Germany, Scandinavia, and the Slavic countries. For those who traveled westward to the great North Woods, the scenery was quite different from that of the prairies. It was a deep, rich forest full of towering evergreens. With the opening of the Erie Canal, the trip west became much easier, and in the 1830s, steamships on the Great Lakes were a common sight.

By 1840 the midwestern frontier had essentially been settled. In 1836 J. M. Peck, who wrote the New Guide for Emigrants to the West, said, "Such an extent of forest was never before cleared-such a vast Weld of prairie was never before subdued and cultivated by the hand of man in the same short period of time. Cities and towns and villages and counties and states never before rushed into existence and made such giant strides, as upon this Weld."

And so the towns and cities were built and the prairies and forests were subdued, but were never forgotten, for the heart and spirit of the midwesterner still remains close to the land. Today the people of this region have paid tribute to the past and homage to the future by holding firm to their roots and creating public parks and gardens that evoke the natural wonders of the past and imitate, emulate and even perhaps improve on the present-day natural landscape of their region.

The same rich, black earth that made the Midwest the envy of the agricultural world today provides fertile ground for the growth of many kinds of gardens, from the utilitarian herb gardens at New Harmony to the magical children's garden at Michigan State University. The harvest we reap from these gardens is an experience of awe and wonder at the successful union of plants and people-the garden.

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