New to living and gardening in Philadelphia, Sharon White
begins a journey through the landscape of the city, past and
present, in Vanished Gardens. In prose now as precise and
considered as the paths in a parterre, now as flowing and lyrical
as an Olmsted vista, White explores Philadelphia's gardens as a
part of the city's ecosystem and animates the lives of individual
gardeners and naturalists working in the area around her home.
In one section of the book, White tours the gardens of colonial
botanist John Bartram; his wife, Ann; and their son, writer and
naturalist William. Other chapters focus on Deborah Logan, who kept
a record of her life on a large farm in the late eighteenth
century, and Mary Gibson Henry, twentieth-century botanist, plant
collector, and namesake of the lily Hymenocallis henryae.
Throughout White weaves passages from diaries, letters, and memoirs
from significant Philadephia gardeners into her own striking prose,
transforming each place she examines into a palimpsest of the
underlying earth and the human landscapes layered over it.
White gives a surprising portrait of the resilience and richness
of the natural world in Philadelphia and of the ways that gardening
can connect nature to urban space. She shows that although gardens
may vanish forever, the meaning and solace inherent in the act of
gardening are always waiting to be discovered anew.
Subjects: Biological Sciences, History
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