The Pleasure Gardens of Virginia: From Jamestown to Jefferson

The Pleasure Gardens of Virginia: From Jamestown to Jefferson

by Peter Martin
     
 

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Using a rich assortment of illustrations and biographical sketches, Peter Martin relates the experiences of colonial gardeners who shaped the natural beauty of Virginia's wilderness into varied displays of elegance. He shows that ornamental gardening was a scientific, aesthetic, and cultural enterprise that thoroughly engaged some of the leading figures of the period,

Overview

Using a rich assortment of illustrations and biographical sketches, Peter Martin relates the experiences of colonial gardeners who shaped the natural beauty of Virginia's wilderness into varied displays of elegance. He shows that ornamental gardening was a scientific, aesthetic, and cultural enterprise that thoroughly engaged some of the leading figures of the period, including the British governors at Williamsburg and the great plantation owners George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, William Byrd, and John Custis. In presenting accounts of their gardening efforts, Martin reveals the intricacies of colonial garden design, plant searches, experimentation, and the problems in adapting European landscaping ideas to local climate. These writings also bring to life the social and commercial interaction between Williamsburg and the plantations, together with early American ideas about cultured living. While placing Virginia's gardening in the larger context of the colonial South, Martin tells a very human story of how this art both influenced and reflected the quality of colonial life. As Virginia grew economically and culturally, the garden became a projection of the gardener's personal identity, as exemplified by the endeavors of Washington and Jefferson at Mount Vernon and Monticello. In order to recapture the gardens as they existed in colonial times, Martin brings together paintings, drawings, and the findings of modern archaeological excavations.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This scholarly monograph is eminently readable. Tracing the history of gardens and gardening in Virginia from its earliest days in the 1600s--when few colonial gardeners recorded their efforts--Martin, professor of English at New England College in England, concentrates on the gardens of Williamsburg (as the seat of government and the ``focus of colonial civilization and culture'') and those of John Custis and William Byrd, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. The trials and frustrations of tilling ground with a climate so unlike Mother England's make interesting reading; it is fascinating to look back to a time and place when so many uncertainties confronted the would-be gardener. A chapter on Mount Vernon and Monticello is filled with horticultural details available only because both ardent gardeners left explicit--and graphic--information. Pleasure Gardens is not, as Martin notes in his preface, a book to be used by the amateur garden restorer to lay out a colonial-style garden. It is instead a volume that goes ``some way toward reconstructing a world almost completely lost to us.'' Illustrated. (July)
Virginia Quarterly Review

Martin shows that... Virginians were experimenting with all sorts of imported and, increasingly, native flora... as a means of expressing themselves and their places in the new world.

John Dixon Hunt

Martin's book is a first of its kind. By drawing on a wide variety of new material, by considering the development of gardening in Virginia as an entity, and by applying his skills as a garden historian, Martin has brought into sharp focus a crucial era of American gardening. Partly because it is so well written, and partly because of its subject, this volume [has] a wide appeal.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691047867
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
06/10/1991
Series:
Colonial Williamsburg Studies in Chesape
Pages:
264
Product dimensions:
7.84(w) x 10.31(h) x 1.28(d)

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What People are saying about this

"Martin's book is a first of its kind. By drawing on a wide variety of new material, by considering the development of gardening in Virginia as an entity, and by applying his skills as a garden historian, Martin has brought into sharp focus a crucial era of American gardening. Partly because it is so well written, and partly because of its subject, this volume [has] a wide appeal." -- John Dixon Hunt, Professor and Chair, Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, University of Pennsylvania

John Dixon Hunt

Martin's book is a first of its kind. By drawing on a wide variety of new material, by considering the development of gardening in Virginia as an entity, and by applying his skills as a garden historian, Martin has brought into sharp focus a crucial era of American gardening. Partly because it is so well written, and partly because of its subject, this volume [has] a wide appeal.

Meet the Author

Peter Martin is Professor of English at Principia College, and a former garden historian for Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. He is the author of Pursuing Innocent Pleasures: The Gardening World of Alexander Pope, A Life of James Boswell, and Edmond Malone, Shakespearean Scholar, and is the editor of British and American Gardens in the Eighteenth Century.

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