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Of Gardens

Of Gardens: Selected Essays

Paula Deitz
Afterword by John Dixon Hunt
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    Of Gardens
    Book Description:

    Paula Deitz has delighted readers for more than thirty years with her vivid descriptions of both famous and hidden landscapes. Her writings allow readers to share in the experience of her extensive travels, from the waterways of Britain's Castle Howard to the Japanese gardens of Kyoto, and home again to New York City's Central Park. Collected for the first time, the essays in Of Gardens record her great adventure of continual discovery, not only of the artful beauty of individual gardens but also of the intellectual and historical threads that weave them into patterns of civilization, from the modest garden for family subsistence to major urban developments. Deitz's essays describe how people, over many centuries and in many lands, have expressed their originality by devoting themselves to cultivation and conservation. During a visit to the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden in Seal Harbor, Maine, Deitz first came to appreciate the notion that landscape architecture can be as intricately conceived as any major structure and is, indeed, the means by which we redeem the natural environment through design. Years later, as she wandered through the gardens of Versailles, she realized that because gardens give structure without confinement, they encourage a liberation of movement and thought. In Of Gardens, we follow Deitz down paths of revelation, viewing "A Bouquet of British Parks: Liverpool, Edinburgh, and London"; the parks and promenades of Jerusalem; the Moonlight Garden of the Taj Mahal; a Tuscan-style villa in southern California; and the rooftop garden at Tokyo's Mori Center, among many other sites. Deitz covers individual landscape architects and designers, including André Le Nôtre, Frederick Law Olmsted, Beatrix Farrand, Russell Page, and Michael Van Valkenburgh. She then features an array of parks, public places, and gardens before turning her attention to the burgeoning business of flower shows. The volume concludes with a memorable poetic epilogue entitled "A Winter Garden of Yellow."

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0696-8
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-xi)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xvii)

    In 1625, the British philosopher and empiricist Francis Bacon wrote in his seminal essay “Of Gardens” that without gardens “buildings and palaces are but gross handiworks,” and that even “when ages grow to civility and elegancy, men come to build stately sooner than to garden finely; as if gardening were the greater perfection.” As I reread this passage recently, my mind harkened back to the experience that jolted me into understanding landscape architecture, not just as a stepsister to architecture, as Bacon partially implies, but as the means by which man redeems the natural environment through design. The occasion was...

  4. Prologue. The Lure of the Porch in Summer: Privacy and Pleasure
    (pp. 1-4)

    Without a porch, life at my summer place in Maine seemed incomplete. A granite patio-terrace adjoining the main house suited everyone as a gathering space for eating, drinking, and socializing—until the sun went down and the mosquitoes drove us inside. Nearby, however, was a small guest cottage with a wooden deck that had a roof over it. A local carpenter constructed a screened enclosure with a door on either side, and, with three wicker rockers, I was in business.

    True, it was not the wide-screened porch of my childhood on a quiet city street shaded by maples. But the...

  5. One Landscape Architects and Designers
    (pp. 6-75)

    WHEN EDITH WHARTON went abroad in 1902 to write Italian Villas and Their Gardens, she felt she was better known for her knowledge of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century architecture than for her novels. Reading this work gives the sense of how the American eye perceived the Italian garden and translated it selectively into the American estate garden. “In the modern revival of gardening,” Wharton wrote, “the garden-lover should not content himself with a vague enjoyment of old Italian gardens, but should try to extract from them principles which may be applied at home.”

    One who followed her advice quite literally was...

  6. Two Parks and Public Places
    (pp. 76-165)

    THE SLANT of late afternoon sun enhanced the spring green of New York’s Central Park as I walked home along its winding paths and around the still, dark waters of the reservoir. Although I had walked this route hundreds of times over the years, the experience was enriched by having recently walked in the public park in England that gave Frederick Law Olmsted, Central Park’s creator, the idea in the first place.

    Writing in 1852, Olmsted described taking a ferry from Liverpool to Birkenhead on a spring day. He stopped to eat some buns in a baker’s shop, and it...

  7. Three American
    (pp. 166-219)

    AMERICA WAS founded on the traditions of other cultures, and the customs and forms of those societies were transported to new soil. The great plantations of the South and the country estates of the North retained from their European antecedents either the axial formality of the seventeenth-century Renaissance garden or the serpentine contours of the eighteenth-century picturesque landscape. What altered these conventions in the course of time was an American idea about individuality and man’s relationship to the vast wilderness; also, there was the memory of the tradition of subsistence gardening practiced by the first settlers, who planted seeds that...

  8. Four British
    (pp. 220-263)

    ON A GENTLE slope rising above the winding river Cherwell near Steeple Aston, in Oxfordshire, England, a woodland path at the edge of a close-cropped bowling green, north of a Jacobean stone house, runs into a small park. The path widens through a series of sun-dappled glades ornamented with urns and statuary green with lichen and the patina of time, past arcades and small classical temples, cascades of water spilling over stone grottoes. A serpentine rill—a stream in a stone bed—follows the curving line of a gravel path and empties into a clear, dark octagonal pool hidden in...

  9. Five French
    (pp. 264-291)

    THUS BEGINS Louis XIV’s walking tour of the gardens of Versailles. Never published in his lifetime, the six versions of this tour, recorded either in his own hand or by secretaries between 1689 and 1705, were used as guides to lead official visitors through the groves and around the fountains of one of the most complex and extensive architectural extravaganzas of the seventeenth century. Like any host, the king wanted the satisfaction of showing his guests the gardens through his eyes.

    On an August day in 1700, Louis XIV walked through the gardens himself, probably along the preordained route, in...

  10. Six Japanese
    (pp. 292-317)

    LONG BEFORE the International style in architecture gave cities all over the world a similar look, garden designs spread over the centuries from country to country. Without traveling at all, a garden aficionado could visit Italian terraces, French parterres, or English borders. Even George Washington’s garden at Mount Vernon has been recreated in Bath, England. Yet there is no substitute for going to the source, because gardens as originally conceived are wedded not only to a place but to a culture.

    Before my recent sojourn in Japan, I believed that I knew something about Japanese gardens. Every spring I visit...

  11. Seven Flower Shows
    (pp. 318-327)

    BEFORE I SETTLED in for this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, I crossed the Channel to attend the increasingly popular plant sale known as the Journées des plantes de Courson. What began in 1982 as an informal plant exchange between members of the Association des Parcs Botaniques de France has blossomed into one of the most exciting horticultural events in Europe, due to the gracious hospitality of Hélène and Patrice Fustier, the owners of the seventeenth-century chateau of Courson, thirty-five kilometers south of Paris.

    Twice a year, in May and October, more than twenty thousand people cross the chateau’s moat and...

  12. Epilogue.
    (pp. 328-330)

    ON DRIZZLY WINTER MORNINGS, I often stand at a corner window, hot mug of milk in hand, looking down on Park Avenue. The moment has to be right, a little after eight o’clock. Suddenly, moving slowly up and down both sides of the center islands, school buses and taxis fill the slick dark avenue with chrome-yellow shapes that gleam in the rain. I move away for an instant, then, when I look again, this world in a mist seems transformed into a stream in an old Kyoto garden where golden carp weave in and out of dark waters, their backs...

  13. Afterword
    (pp. 332-336)
    John Dixon Hunt

    PUBLIC INTEREST and awareness of garden-making and garden-visiting are more extensive and probably better informed than ever before, fuelled in part by an increasing concern with environmental issues. Books, magazines, articles, exhibitions, garden festivals, and radio and television broadcasts, not to mention the ubiquity of garden centers and visitable historical sites, make gardens everywhere a prime topic of inquiry, tourism, and amateur design and horticulture.

    Yet there seems sometimes a striking divide between this widespread public interest in gardens and the work and pronouncements of professional landscape architects. This has several explanations: a studied suspicion of “gardens” by professionals, who...

  14. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 337-338)
  15. Index
    (pp. 339-362)
  16. Photography Credits
    (pp. 363-363)