The American Woodland Garden: Capturing the Spirit of the Deciduous Forest

Hardcover (Print)

Overview

North America's eastern half, roughly from the Midwest to the Atlantic, was once a great deciduous forest. Although centuries of human intervention have cleared much of the land, the timeless forest remains in the spirit of the place. Today, even the shortest period of human neglect allows for the resurgence of the process of forest creation. The greatest gardens — and happiest gardeners — in this area will be those that take into account the nature of the land.
In his unique, and often thought-provoking new book, award-winning author Darke promotes and stunningly illustrates a garden aesthetic based on the strengths and opportunities of the woodland, including play of light, sound, and scent; seasonal drama; and the architectural interest of woody plants.

While written from a compelling and fresh perspective, The American Woodland Garden never strays from the realistic concerns of the everyday gardener. Information on planting, soils, and maintenance provides a firm foundation for horticultural accomplishment. An alphabetical list of woodland plants offers useful advice for every garden, emphasizing native trees, shrubs, vines, ferns, grasses, sedges, and flowering perennials that fit the forest aesthetic. More than 700 of the author's stunning photographs show both the natural palette of plants in the wild and the effects that can be achieved with them in garden settings. Many of the most striking photos in the book were taken at classic gardens that are paragons of an ecological style.

The American Woodland Garden is a clarion call to a new awareness of our relationship to the natural world. This book will take its rightful place among the classic works that have influenced our concept of the American landscape.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Take a walk in the woods -- in your own backyard. Filled with gorgeous woodland photographs and detailed instructions on creating gardens using woodland plants, this book also provides a compelling ecological argument for gardening with native species. Most of the people living east of the Rocky Mountains now own land that either was at one time or still is deciduous forest. Developing an aesthetic based on what naturally would prefer to grow here not only saves heartache but also celebrates our unique American heritage. Many familiar garden plants, such as Chinese and Japanese wisteria, which can run wild and wreak havoc, have lesser-known native American counterparts -- in this case, the lovely and better-behaved American wisteria.
Fine Gardening - Virginia Small
"A gallery of breathtaking images of native woodlands in all seasons...This is an inspiring reference that synthesizes ecology and horticulture, presented by a philosophical author with an artist's eye."—Virginia Small, Fine Gardening, January/February 2003
Gardens Illustrated - Bob Purnell
"An accomplished work of epic proportions. ... Wherever you garden and no matter how extensive or small the woodland you tend — even if it is just a single birch tree — The American Woodland Garden offers the most comprehensive, inspiring, and thought-provoking advice you are ever likely to find within the confines of a single volume. As the text on the inside jacket correctly claims, this book is destined to become a classic."—Bob Purnell, Gardens Illustrated, December 2003
People Places Plants - Moira Sheridan
"Reads like a memoir. It's also a visual showcase, with more than 700 of Darke's exceptional photographs gracing its pages, all documented with an attention to detail gardeners will appreciate ... A valuable reference for those who seek to follow Darke's call to 'capture the spirit of the deciduous forest' in their own spaces."—Moira Sheridan, People Places Plants, Spring 2003
From the Publisher
"Reads like a memoir. It's also a visual showcase, with more than 700 of Darke's exceptional photographs gracing its pages, all documented with an attention to detail gardeners will appreciate ... A valuable reference for those who seek to follow Darke's call to 'capture the spirit of the deciduous forest' in their own spaces."—Moira Sheridan, People Places Plants, Spring 2003

"A must-have for anyone interested in woodlands and gardening."

Bristol Herald Courier

Bristol Herald Courier
"A must-have for anyone interested in woodlands and gardening."

Bristol Herald Courier

Fine Gardening
"A gallery of breathtaking images of native woodlands in all seasons...This is an inspiring reference that synthesizes ecology and horticulture, presented by a philosophical author with an artist's eye."—Virginia Small, Fine Gardening, January/February 2003
— Virginia Small
Gardens Illustrated
"An accomplished work of epic proportions. ... Wherever you garden and no matter how extensive or small the woodland you tend — even if it is just a single birch tree — The American Woodland Garden offers the most comprehensive, inspiring, and thought-provoking advice you are ever likely to find within the confines of a single volume. As the text on the inside jacket correctly claims, this book is destined to become a classic."—Bob Purnell, Gardens Illustrated, December 2003
— Bob Purnell
People Places Plants
"Reads like a memoir. It's also a visual showcase, with more than 700 of Darke's exceptional photographs gracing its pages, all documented with an attention to detail gardeners will appreciate ... A valuable reference for those who seek to follow Darke's call to 'capture the spirit of the deciduous forest' in their own spaces."—Moira Sheridan, People Places Plants, Spring 2003
— Moira Sheridan
Bristol Herald Courier

"A must-have for anyone interested in woodlands and gardening."

Bristol Herald Courier

Purnell, Bob
An accomplished work of epic proportions. . . . Wherever you garden and no matter how extensive or small the woodland you tend -- even if it is just a single birch tree -- The American Woodland Garden offers the most comprehensive, inspiring, and thought-provoking advice you are ever likely to find within the confines of a single volume. As the text on the inside jacket correctly claims, this book is destined to become a classic.
Gardens Illustrated
Joel Lerner
Should be displayed where you and your guests can refer to it regularly. Reading this book is like winding through the forest with the author at your side and learning from how his 20 years of studying how the woods work. He does a superlative job addressing the totally natural landscape, a huge residential trend. Every page has photographs that perfectly parallel the text.
The Washington Post
LeDuca, Alice
The book will reach out and inspire anyone who loves nature and gardening -- whether that individual is a master gardener or a garden spectator. I believe everyone who sees this book will forever view the eastern deciduous forest with a far greater depth of appreciation for the diversity and a positively influenced perception of its woodland landscape.
Flora
Biology Digest
In this unique and often thought-provoking new book, Darke promotes and stunningly illustrated a garden aesthetic. . . A clarion call to a new awareness of humankind's relationship to the natural world. This book will take its rightful place among the classic works that have influenced the concept of the American landscape.
Booklist
As responsible stewards of the land, gardeners can look to Darke's unorthodox design manual to transcend trite solutions with a wise and vital philosophy, and with its cache of inspiring photographs, this is sure to inspire all who garden east of the Rocky Mountains.
Mark Flanagan, Mark
Within two pages . . . I was hooked. This is a first-rate work.
The Garden, Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society
Alice Joyce
With its cache of inspiring photographs, this is sure to inspire all who garden east of the Rocky Mountains.
Booklist
American Gardner
Rick Darke shares his love of the eastern deciduous forest through his stunning photographs and insightful prose, making the ordinary seem remarkable. Nature's seasonal transitions become a magical journey that the reader is invited to witness.
American Gardener
Rick Darke shares his love of the eastern deciduous forest through his stunning photographs and insightful prose, making the ordinary seem remarkable. Nature's seasonal transitions become a magical journey that the reader is invited to witness.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780881925456
  • Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/15/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 378
  • Sales rank: 393,595
  • Product dimensions: 10.38 (w) x 11.25 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Rick Darke is a landscape design consultant, author, lecturer, and photographer based in Pennsylvania who blends art, ecology, and cultural geography in the creation and conservation of livable landscapes. Darke served on the staff of Longwood Gardens for twenty years, and in 1998 he received the Scientific Award of the American Horticultural Society. His work has been featured in the New York Times and on National Public Radio. Darke has studied North American plants in their habitats for over three decades, and his research and lectures have taken him to Africa, Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Chile, Japan, New Zealand, and northern Europe. His books include The Encyclopedia of Grasses for Livable Landscapes (2007), The American Woodland Garden (2002), and In Harmony with Nature (2000).

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Read an Excerpt

There is no overstating the grandeur and dignity of the deciduous forest canopy: it is truly awesome. I've always found the top of the woods especially enthralling in mid winter, when trees are completely bare of leaves. Stand still and follow the lines of massive trunks skyward, and you'll observe their graceful splitting into repeatedly finer segments until they become mere threads, barely distinguishable to the naked eye. Then move forward just a step or two, while looking up, and literal millions of angles will shift and change. The canopy is a fabulous study in intricate detail.

Exquisitely displayed in winter's exposed canopy, the signature of a tree is written in its branching patterns and angles. Most trees, including beech, Fagus grandifolia, oaks, Quercus species, and hickories, Carya species, branch in an alternate fashion; others, including ash, Fraxinus species, and maple, Acer species, produce branches in opposite pairs. With a keen eye, these differences can be appreciated from considerable distance. Individual branch angles also vary among different species; for example, the angles of beech are relatively narrow, while those of maples are broad. Dormant trees can also be distinguished by the characteristic lines of their branches. The branches of some, including maples, continue along fairly smooth lines. Others such as black gum, Nyssa sylvatica, and burr oak, Quercus macrocarpa, are noted for their sinuous curves.

Marvelous in detail, the canopy is also visually fascinating in broad perspective: a diverse collection of tree shapes sketched by branches, interrupted occasionally by small patches of open sky. The crowns of canopy trees are shaped by many forces including storms and light competition from other trees; however, they often maintain representative outlines. When growing through the canopy and into the light, the summits of tuliptrees, Liriodendron tulipifera, form distinctive spires. Beeches, under the same conditions, become broad, rounded brushes. Breaks in the canopy set off the outlines of the trees, and the also function as literal windows — the forest's fenestration — through which some sunlight will pass to sustain the understory below.

Photo: Straight as rules and strictly upright, the trunks of three tuliptrees, Liriodendron tulipifera, appear as huge black cylinders, their massive lines accentuated by the delicacy of crossing beech branches, in late March in Delaware.

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Table of Contents

Preface 9
Acknowledgments 12
Ch. 1 A Forest Aesthetic 14
Ch. 2 Learning from a Woodland Stream 68
Ch. 3 Designing the Woodland Garden 106
Ch. 4 Planting and Maintaining the Woodland Garden 168
Ch. 5 The Forest Palette 194
Plant Sources 355
USDA Hardiness Zone Map 358
Glossary 359
Bibliography 361
Index 365
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