By Carol Stocker
Landscape architects and historians from around the country converged on the Boston Athenaeum Saturday night to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Library of American Landscape History, the foremost publisher in the genre, which is headquartered in Amherst. The non-profit has published a cannon of 26 books on the history of landscape design in this country, working with the University of Massachusetts Press. They include the award winning "A Genius for Place: American Landscapes of the Country Place Era," by Robin Karson, LALH's founder and executive director, who briefly addressed the gathering.
Also in attendance were Iris Gestram, executive director of the National Association for Olmsted Parks in Washington, director Mark Zelonis of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Bob Cook, former director of the Arnold Arboretum, Meg Winslow, archivist for the Mount Auburn Cemetery, and Lee Farrow Cook of the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic National Park Service site, named Fairsted.
Nancy Turner, the LALH's founding president, was honored. "I met Robin when she came to write about my Fletcher Steele garden," recalled Turner in an interview. The famous Boston landscape designer had had an office on Louisburg Square, but had retired to Pittsford, N.Y., near her estate, and created his last garden there for her. Karson documented it in her great book, "Fletcher Steele, Landscape Architect." Written shortly after Steele's death in 1971, the book documented many of his gardens before they were lost. Steele gardens were generally high maintenance and seldom survived their owners, "but Mabel Choate preserved her Naumkeag," said Turner. She referred to the The Trustees of Reservations' Steele garden in Stockbridge, famed for its series of white Art Deco staircases and waterfalls framed by birch trees..
Turner now lives in Connecticut. Does her own Pittsford garden still exist? "I don't know. I never went back to look. There has been a tremendous increase in the cost of maintenance." She smiled. "Gardens are like sand castles. It survives in Robin's book," she said as she flipped though the book's pages, which featured photos of her well planted granite staircase, orchard, and a series of terraces that led to a round reflecting pool. "It's very quiet, a placid place that reflected the final year of Fletcher Steele's life."
It was after completing this survey of Steele's rapidly vanishing gardens that Karson decided there needed to be an organization that published books on American historical landscapes. She was able to start one with Turner's support, and has kept it going for 20 years, during which she has assembled the most important authors of books on landscape architecture in this country.
New books include "Community by Design; The Olmsted Firm and the Planning of Brookline," by Elisabeth Hope Cushing, Roger G. Reed and Boston University professor Keith N. Morgan, who was at the party. After designing Central Park, Olmsted deserted New York for Brookline, which had proudly anointed itself "the richest town in the world." Little has been previously published on the importance of Brookline as a laboratory and model for the Olmsted firm's work. This book will detail how his son and namesake saw the town as a grounds for experimenting in the new profession of city planning.
It will be followed next year by a study of another important locally based designer. "Arthur A. Shurcliff and the Making of the Colonial Williamsburg Landscape," by Elizabeth Hope Cushing, will spotlight this under-appreciated force in the Colonial Revival house and garden movement. His projects included aspects of the Charles River Esplanade, the Franklin Park Zoo, and, at the end of his life, the iconic gardens at Colonial Williamsburg.
Next year will also see the LAHL's publication of "The Best Planned City in the World: Olmsted, Vaux, and the Buffalo Park System," by Francis R. Kowsky, cq writing about Buffalo, N.Y. "We try to focus the study on individual places," explained Karson. It will be the first in a series edited by Ethan Carr called "Designing the American Park." Another new series will deal with environmental design.
Interest in the history of American landscape architecture has blossomed in the last three decades, said Carr at the gathering. He linked it to the resurgence of interest in New York's Central Park and it's history. That park, which sunk to an all-time low in the 1970's, is now in the best shape of its history, thanks in part to LALH board member Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, the founder of the powerful Central Park Conservancy.
Boston's Emerald Necklace, another Olmsted masterpiece, has also enjoyed rejuvenation and scholarly attention. The Frederick Law Olmsted Papers Project will soon publish Volume Eight of Olmsted Sr's letters, dealing with the 1880's when the Emerald Necklace was created, said Carr, who is the editor.
The U. Mass professor is also the editor of one of LALH's prizewinning books, "Mission 66: Modernism and the National Park Dilemma." And what is the dilemma? "Too little money, too many visitors," said Carr succinctly. "And too many cars."
If you are in New York and a fan of garden antiques, stop by at the Barbara Israel Garden Antiques booth at the famous annual Winter Antiques Show, which is at the Park Avenue Armory at 67th Street through Jan. 30.
Her stuff is amazing! When I was there at the preview last week, the show stopper was a 19th century bas relief carved marble Italian wellhead with a bronze overthrow of floral design. Planting containers included a pair of mid-19th century Versailles urns by the Paris based Durenne foundry, on pedestals. and a terra-cotta planter ornamented by entwined serpents from traditional Celtic design which was designed by Arts & Crafts Symbolist Mary Seton Watts and exhibited at the 1893 Colombian Exposition in Chicago. The always popular animal sculptures included a cast iron Newfoundland and stone panther, both life size. And amusing giant stone frog was from the 1950's but most articles more made in the 19th century and brought over from Europe by garden lovers on the Grand Tour.
The garden ornaments and artwork was selling fast and the price tags were hefty. But Barbara Israel Garden Antiques has also come out with a line of affordable reproductions of its treasures, called Garden Traditions. Visit the website at www.gardentraditions.us for information. The Massachusetts dealer is Tracker Home Decor of Pease's Point Way in South Edgartown. Original antiques can be viewed by appointment at Katonah, NY., where Barbara Israel also puts out a scholarly newsletter, Focal Points.
Barbara Israel has long been a leading expert on the subject of garden antiques and ornaments. Her 1999 book, "Antique Garden Ornament; Two Centuries of America Taste," was a groundbreaking work, noted Ronald Lee Fleming of the Townscape Institute in Cambridge, who also attended the opening.
"I wanted people to realize it was a serious academic art," Israel said when we talked at the show, which is the most prestigious of its kind in the country. She traces her interest to childhood. "One of my grandmothers would take me to an estate in New Jersey which had nine foot tall statues of the first 12 Roman Emperors. My sister and I would play and peek out around them. I was curious why they were there."
By Carol Stocker
There's been an explosion of gardening blogs since I started this one for the Boston Globe three years ago, and one of the newest and best local ones is Mahoney's Blog.
I especially like the comprehensive directory of links its staff has assembled which will instantly connect you to the websites of local horticultural and to other local gardening blogs such as this one. I hope to post such a directory on this blog soon.
You can send them links you’d like to see added to their excellent “blogroll” in the right sidebar, subscribe to updates (3-5 per week) by email or by RSS, join their Facebook by “liking” it, or follow it on Twitter.
Mahoney's blog is for beginners and experts, for gardeners who grow food, gardeners who grow plants for their beauty, and wildlife gardeners, too. Stories include:
* Timely gardening how-to information
* Tips and staff favorites from in-house experts.
* Gardening and greening programs and events in our region
* Public gardens to visit
* Reviews of gardening books, magazines, websites, podcasts and TV shows
* New research findings
* Ideas for gardening sustainably
* Mike Mahoney, Peter Vera, Sara diPalermo, Paul Mancuso, garden products manager James Redding, James Hohmann of the Brighton location, and head grower Dan Cousins and Layanee DeMerchant of the Garden Guys. Plus Susan Harris, co-founder of the popular national team blog GardenRant. Susan’s also a gardening coach, so you’ll be seeing lots of her coaching here.
Layanee DeMerchant is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island with a degree in Landscape Architecture and a Certificate of Horticulture. She has worked as a sales manager for a wholesale perennial grower and as an independent sales representative for many years, calling on garden centers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Currently, Layanee answers gardening questions on The Garden Guys Radio program, which airs each Sunday on 96.9, WTKK, in Boston from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. She also works as a Garden Coach/Consultant.
Layanee gardens on 10 acres of rocky and ledge-filled land in Northwestern Rhode Island. Her garden is a Zone 5b garden. She maintains extensive perennial borders, shrub borders,a small fish pond, and a modest vegetable garden. Plant combinations, both native and newer introductions, are welcome in her garden but she does draw the line at invasives. The gardens are surrounded by a very low-maintenance lawn, which contains so much more than just grass. (Clover is welcome.) Layanee has been blogging about her garden for the past three years at Ledge and Gardens.
Her weekly posts cover the following topics:
* What is currently blooming in the garden
* Plant profiles
* What is going on at local public gardens
* Local gardening news
* Local Farmer’s Markets
* Her favorite gardening tools, methods and techniques
* Garden pests and diseases
* The trials and tribulations of a real gardener
* Containers and windowbox plantings
* Vegetables, annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees
Blog editor and frequent contributor Susan Harris is a co-founder of the popular, award-winning team blog GardenRant, and on her own blog and website she covers Sustainable and Urban Gardening.
* In print, her articles have appeared in Organic Gardening, Fine Gardening, Landscape Architecture and others.
* Her garden is all about low-maintenance, sustainable plants and practices used in the pursuit of beauty. (Being eco-friendly doesn’t require abandoning all hope of design success, or eye-popping results.) Mainly shrubs, the easiest perennials available, and an on-going experiment with short creeping groundcovers that she’s using to replace her lawn.
* A lifelong “ornamentalist”, Susan caught the veg-growing bug in 2009, producing a crop of edibles from containers on her deck (away from the critters). So expect some veg-in-container as well as newbie-veg-gardener stories.
* Help yourself to a tour of her garden.
Her twice-weekly posts are full of seasonal tips (your virtual garden-coaching) and features about the coolest gardens and gardeners. Book reviews, gardening-in-movie reviews, and whatever looks interesting. And she’s always on the look-out for potential guest bloggers from among the best garden writers in New England.
"Plants that Inspire," the 2011 UMASS Garden Calendar is now available with its daily timely garden tips geared for each month of the year. The University Landscape, Nursery and Urban Forestry staff put a new version together each year. To order, got to www.umasscalendar.orggarden or send $12 to Garden Calendar, c/o Mailrite, 78 River Road South, Putney, VT 05346.
You can also order the monthly newsletter March through October for $10 payable to UMass sent to Garden Clipppings, UMass Ext., French Hall, 230 Stockbridge Road, Amherst, MA 01003-9316
To register for workshop series go to www.umassgarden.com.
Newtown, CT - Editor Steve Aitken announced the following eight new contributing editors of Fine Gardening:
Linda Chalker-Scott has a doctorate in horticulture from Oregon State University and is an International Society of Arboriculture certified arborist. She is an extension urban horticulturist at Washington State University and an associate professor in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture. She is the author of The Informed Gardener and The Informed Gardener Blooms Again, both of which examine common horticultural myths. In 2009, she and three other academic colleagues launched The Garden Professors, a blog through which they educate and entertain an international audience.
Stephanie Cohen, also known in the horticultural industry as “the perennial diva,” taught herbaceous plants and perennial design at Temple University for more than 20 years. She was the founder and director of the Landscape Arboretum of Temple University–Ambler. She has received three design awards from the Perennial Plant Association, as well as its Service Award and Academic Award. She has also received awards from Temple University and The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, and was named Garden Communicator of the Year in 2000 by the American Nursery & Landscape Association. She is coauthor of The Perennial Gardener’s Design Primer, Fallscaping, and The Nonstop Garden. She gardens in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Jeff Gillman is an associate professor in the Department of Horticultural Science at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of four books, including The Truth about Garden Remedies, The Truth about Organic Gardening, and How Trees Die. Like Chalker-Scott, Gillman contributes to The Garden Professors, and is committed to helping gardeners find real answers among the contradictory and false information regularly offered to today’s naturalists and gardeners.
Amy Goldman is a passionate vegetable gardener whose three books, Melons for the Passionate Grower, The Compleat Squash, and The Heirloom Tomato, have each won the American Horticultural Society’s Book Award. She is a board member of Seed Savers Exchange and The New York Botanical Garden. Goldman grows hundreds of varieties of heirloom vegetables in her garden in upstate New York.
Billy Goodnick is a landscape architect, educator, and writer in Santa Barbara, California, who has 35 years of experience in retail-nursery sales, landscaping, designing, and teaching. Goodnick shares his wisdom on his blog, Cool Green Gardens, which can be found at www.finegardening.com.
Richard Hawke is plant evaluation manager at the Chicago Botanic Garden, where he conducts long-term trials on dozens of ornamental plants. This program received the Award for Program Excellence from the American Public Gardens Association in 2008. Hawke lectures widely on topics related to his research and teaches several courses at the Chicago Botanic Garden. He was the recipient of the Perennial Plant Association’s Academic Award in 2005.
Jason Reeves is the research horticulturist with the University of Tennessee at the West Tennessee Research and Education Center in Jackson. He holds a master’s degree in ornamental horticulture and landscape design from the University of Tennessee–Knoxville. Reeves is widely respected for his plant knowledge, honed while working at leading institutions, such as the Missouri Botanical Garden and Longwood Gardens.
Amy Stewart is the award-winning author of five books on the perils and pleasures of the natural world, including two New York Times best sellers, Wicked Plants and Flower Confidential. She is the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Horticultural Society’s Book Award, and the California Horticultural Society’s Writer’s Award. Stewart lives and gardens in Eureka, California, and blogs regularly at www.gardenrant.com.
Fine Gardening is a magazine devoted to making readers better gardeners. Our readers span all ability levels, but they share a passion for growing all types of plants. Fine Gardening is written by expert gardeners and horticulturists from around the country and focuses on plants, techniques, designs, that readers can use in their own gardens. The magazine is published six times a year by The Taunton Press. To learn more, please visit www.finegardening.com
By Carol Stocker
When the days grow shorter, I always find myself toying with the idea of adding a greenhouse or sun room full of thriving oxygen producing plants to make winter bearable. If you do, too, you'll be inspired by a new book written by a non-gardener who, starting with zero knowledge and a ridiculously brown thumb, built a lush conservatory onto her Maryland home that became a center for family life, entertaining, and her own revitalization after a bout with cancer.
"Paradise Under Glass; An Amateur Creates a Conservatory Garden," by Ruth Kassinger is my favorite gardening book of the year. It is actually five books in one. There's the personal uplifting memoir of re-embracing life through a passionate project. Interwoven with this is an actual how-to book of hard won advice on building a functioning plant conservatory. The big bonus is that since the author is also an award winning history and science writer, she has included (perhaps she couldn't stop herself) an amusing history of greenhouses, character sketches of leading American houseplant growers, and up to date scientific information about green industry technology.
Ruth Kassinger had been hit hard by her sister's cancer death at 45, followed closely by her own battle with breast cancer. Seeking a healing retreat, she visited conservatory of the U.S. Botanical Garden on the Washington Mall and decided to build her own private green oasis, "the perfect antidote to the losses and changes of middle age."
She surprised herself as much as her family because she had never before been interested in gardening. In fact she was repelled by the earthworms in the backyard landscape her husband's tended. But the indoor garden she envisioned would be a clean, bright, earthworm and insect-free cocoon for healing.
Kassinger searches out a builder, deals with zoning ordinances and gets houseplant advice from her local nursery. Gradually she expands her horizons, visiting the famous Logee's Greenhouse in Danielson, CT., and other specialty growers in Florida and California to learn what kinds plants will grow best for her lighting conditions with a minimum of care. She learns how to grow butterflies in her conservatory and how to fight less desirable life forms like scale and spider mites. The appearance of bugs in her paradise sets off a frenzied over-reaction triggered by her belief that she and her doctors had been slow to diagnose cancer's attack on her body. But after researching the most toxic insecticides and how to administer a kind of chemo on her greenhouse, she comes to her senses and dials back to organic Neem and the less poisonous Integrated Pest Management.Technique
The narrative also goes backwards and forwards in time as Kassinger intersperses essays about the history of greenhouses, once a status symbol of the incredibly wealthy, and now, thanks to technology, available to everyone. My favorite element is the future looking science writing Kassinger has deftly integrated. Her research is so thorough that her bibliography is seven pages long, though the book unfortunately lacks an index. In the last chapter she writes about why Biosphere 2 failed (it gobbled up expensive energy) and about entrepreneurs such as Glen Kertz of Texas who is farming algae in greenhouses to try to extract its natural oil, and who is also experimenting with vertical farming to produce more food using less space, fertilizer and water.
Kassinger also researches "living walls," one of the hottest new decorative trends in landscape architecture which has been supersized by French horticultural star Patrick Blanc. My jaw dropped when I saw one of his walls in the south of France last year. Blanc had turned the four story side of a concrete parking garage in Avignon from a potential eyesore into a stunning green tourist attraction which loomed over a public square like a jolly green giant. His textured tapestries of thousands of mixed plants camouflage a complex system of growing medium, supporting materials and irrigation. Rather than just being impressed, Kassinger's typically ambitious response was to try to build a small "living wall" in her own greenhouse. Since Blanc's organization was not sharing trade secrets, she proceeded by trial and error, as usual. She includes details, sources and a spec drawing in her appendix in case you, too, want to try this at home.
Though it gets off to slow start, this book sneaks up on you. It gradually builds in technical complexity as well as emotional depth, so that by the time you finish it, you're surprised by how much you've learned. Readers will find this book is an antidote for the blues of a midwinter's day or midlife malaise. But be warned... you might feel a need to start acquiring houseplants, or even a greenhouse.
Kassinger's own epiphany is that nothing in a garden, even an indoor garden, is static. Her original idea of paradise was a green retreat from change and challenges. But after her constant adjustments and experiments to improve her own indoor biosphere project, she happily concludes that paradise is a place where there's always something new to respond to and look forward to.
"Paradise Under Glass; An Amateur Creates a Conservatory Garden," by Ruth Kassinger (William Morrow, $24.99)
Review by Carol Stocker
This new book by Clare Walker Leslie is an excellent tool for parents and teachers who want to nurture nature education. With activities like "record the sunrise and sunset times for a month," or "sketch a tree in a different seasons," children can gain a deeper understanding of the natural world. It's a great activity book for budding naturalists, and what better way to go through the year than looking at nature with your kids?
Visit www.clarewalkerleslie.com to learn more about "The Nature Connection (Storey Publishing, $14.95) and her other books, including "Drawn to Nature" and "Keeping a Nature Journal."