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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read on vegetable garden design. Buy It.
`Designing the New Kitchen Garden, An American Potager Handbook' by professional garden design consultant, Jennifer R. Bartley is a very serious book, absolutely perfect for the zone 6 snowbound gardener to buy in December, when nothing is growing, and it's even too cold to start hardscaping projects.

What I mean here is that not only does the book give very...
Published on August 4, 2006 by B. Marold

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76 of 81 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Really, a smallish coffee table book
The sub-title for this book might be "A landscape designer dabbles prettily in vegetables" The book is beautifully produced, although I found the strong raking light in some of the photographs actually obscured the plants.

The chapter of historical background is almost worth the price of admission itself (if you're interested in history and the history of...
Published on March 17, 2007 by amazon oldster


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76 of 81 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Really, a smallish coffee table book, March 17, 2007
By 
amazon oldster (Forest Grove, OR, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook (Hardcover)
The sub-title for this book might be "A landscape designer dabbles prettily in vegetables" The book is beautifully produced, although I found the strong raking light in some of the photographs actually obscured the plants.

The chapter of historical background is almost worth the price of admission itself (if you're interested in history and the history of gardening) Although somewhat preciously phrased, the author does remind us of the connection of spirit, body, and garden, something we may forget when we in the middle of a vicious battle with cabbage loopers.

But the excursions into real gardens felt to me like a fantasy. If these gardens are meant to be inspiring, they failed with me. Every page I turned reminded me that these gardens are big, and clearly cost a lot of money to build and maintain. I never had a clear sense of the good eating that should be coming out of these gardens. And of course, nothing ever seems to go wrong in these gardens; there is no sense of how the gardeners have learned and evolved their gardens over time.

For a book ostensibly about "American" potager gardening, most of the country was omitted. Including midwest, southern, and western garden would have been a big help.

The design chapter starts off on the wrong foot by discussing a potager garden that was never built. Even worse, it was never built in a large urban space with which few of us will ever have to contend, so I fail to see the point. The second garden design discussed, designed for a small restaurant, also has not been built. The third garden is the author's own, now giving me the uncomfortable feeling that the entire book is a vanity project.

When the winter weather keeps you indoors, this will not a bad book to page through; just don't let it be the only book on your shelf about potager gardening.
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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read on vegetable garden design. Buy It., August 4, 2006
This review is from: Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook (Hardcover)
`Designing the New Kitchen Garden, An American Potager Handbook' by professional garden design consultant, Jennifer R. Bartley is a very serious book, absolutely perfect for the zone 6 snowbound gardener to buy in December, when nothing is growing, and it's even too cold to start hardscaping projects.

What I mean here is that not only does the book give very serious guidance on how to build a potager garden, it gives oodles of historical perspective on how the potager garden design evolved from pre-Christian times, through the Middle Ages and Renaissance, with it's flowering in the monastary and royal gardens of France.

One thing to point out early in this review is that the book covers practically nothing about things culinary, in spite of the fact that various methods for categorizing this book put it cheek and jowl with books on culinary subjects, which is how I happened to run across it. But as long as I'm on the subject, its important to note that a good reference on gardening techniques must almost by definition have lots of interesting text and pictures for the armchair. While you can always cook, you cannot always garden, and in temperate climes, there will always be many months of down time. This book is the perfect antidote. In fact, as good as this book is, it is almost completely composed of material for thinking and planning and not about digging, laying stone, or planting. The `Designing' of the title must be taken very seriously. There are no recipes here for laying a gravel walk or laying out a herringbone brick path. Go to your Home Depot manuals and hardscaping texts for theses skills. On the other hand, there is a great collection of ideas one may not have normally thought of, should you have the proper venue to lay out the kind of garden discussed in this book.

I must say that the `potager' of the subtitle is the French word for `kitchen garden', which is how this book landed alongside texts on herbs and vegetables. But, the fact that this notion is originally French has as much or more to do with the subject as the `vegetable' part of the notion. The book does not really discuss your garden variety `victory garden'. It really takes on the design of formal gardens which are build to be grand orniments to the spirit as well as resources for the body.

All in all, this book is a kind of knot joining many different strands of ideas, including design for pleasant sights, design for culinary application, design for historical interest, and design for a refuge for the soul. To these ends, it covers a fair number of rather esoteric techniques such as esplanade and pergola design.

Just like the fact that it does not cover a lot of culinary material, it also does not cover a lot of horticultural material. There are no references in the index, for example, on `mulch', `weeding', or `pruning'. It does, however, cover `Christian Symbols', `Roman garden', and `Holy Roman Empire'.

It also gives a list of gardens one can visit, and I'm surprised that neither Longwood Gardens nor the Winthertur Museum are listed. There is a bibliography which I believe should include Amanda Hesser's `The Gardener and the Cook'. Aside from these miniscule nits, this is a great book for sparking wonder and ideas for the gardener.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Semi-formal vegetable garden?, August 17, 2006
By 
John B. Batzel (Philadelphia area, PA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook (Hardcover)
The concept of edible landscaping is given a boost toward a practical and beautiful kitchen garden in this book. The history behind kitchen gardens ("potagers", that is gardens designed around culinary use rather than solely appearance) is interesting and lively, and the sections on a few modern garden case studies is useful.

The book stumbles a bit in assuming you already know elements of design, and doesn't discuss the practical considerations of some of them. The examples of "shade mapping" could use a little explanation alongside the drawings; I found them confusing. And there's very little discussion of what to plant when -- presumably you'll decide these on your own with various seed catalogs spread around you, if you can find catalogs that detail things such as plant height and habit, colors and seasons. I haven't found many vegetable seed catalogs that spend time on these sorts of topics, and I was hoping this book would provide some illumination.

Still, there are plenty of suggestions and examples for making your vegetable garden a place of beauty as well as a producer of foods and herbs for your kitchen. My personal leanings are toward the concept that a vegetable garden is beautiful if you can see the significant amount of food you'll be eating from it and so regular plots of densely packed plants are just fine; but I'm sure my spouse will enjoy the more formal look the veggies and herbs will take on in next year's garden as a result of this book.

Do you want a vegetable garden that people -- non-gardening people -- would actually want to walk through? Are you capable of designing a beautiful layout but need a nudge in the right directions? Then this is a good book for you. I'd have prefered more meat in it, so to speak, particularly for the $35 I spent on it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Definitely Little in the Way of Practical Information, April 5, 2010
This review is from: Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook (Hardcover)
No question this book is very pretty, but it's more like a minor treatise on the kitchen gardens of a monastery or an estate in France. I saw very very little on American gardens in it. I certainly didn't see anything I could realistically use in my suburban 1/3 acre lot. Every one of these designs looks like they are 100 ft wide or more (though I can't be sure - I didn't see a lot of scale measurements in there).

While it may be inspiring in a general, "isn't that pretty" way, it is most definitely NOT inspiring in the "hey, I could do something like that in MY yard" way.

So if you are looking for a book with pretty kitchen gardens that look like they could be part of an english castle but don't really feel a need to actually learn anything useful, this could be the book for you. However, if you have the typical urban or suburban (or possibly even rural) lot, you probably won't find a whole lot to actually walk you through the process of creating a kitchen potager.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, enlightening AND practical, August 3, 2008
By 
Judith (Santa Cruz, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook (Hardcover)
Like other "potager" books (formal, French-style kitchen gardens), this has beautiful photos of gardens artistically planted in geometric designs, which are unrealistic for those of us without at least fairly large properties and larger bank accounts. It also has the best-researched history, which is interesting in itself and will give you fodder for entertaining conversation. The unexpected bonus that sets this one apart from the others is that it's useful, too, because there are many detailed how-to charts, designs, and lists. These are particularly for those who live in the Midwest (Zone 5 and adjacent), as the author does. East Coasters can benefit, too, but those of us in California will have to adapt her when-to-plant info, for instance. Even so, this is one of the most interesting and useful books of many that I've read or skimmed lately on all variations and topics of vegetable gardening. I actually READ most of this one.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook, May 22, 2009
This review is from: Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook (Hardcover)
Returned this book. I wanted some ideas for MY garden not photos of formal gardens on estates. Totally impractical unless you own an estate or business and can hire hordes of cheap laborers! A pretentious coffee table book at best.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't wait to get started, January 12, 2009
By 
garden gal (Mid Atlantic USA) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook (Hardcover)
I'm getting ready to add a fairly large vegetable/flower garden to my property and this book has proved to be a life saver! Some of the hints that the author has given concerning design and placement, I will definitely be using. I also liked the historical information regarding how they used and placed their gardens in medieval times. I am including some of the plants that were always in the gardens of the monasteries as a historical nod.(my house is over 200 years old) Overall, a great book for anyone just getting started and looking for some ideas!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good resource for designers, March 2, 2009
By 
D. Wheatley (Meridian, Mississippi) - See all my reviews
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Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook (Hardcover)
I have been designing gardens for several years, but since I am self taught, potagers were a new concept to me. I really enjoyed the historical background the author gave, but the most valuable parts of the book for me were the photos and design drawings. I got lots of good ideas for my own potager, and for friends who have been asking me for help in designing theirs.
This book will not be a complete resource for a brand new gardener. She doesn't thoroughly cover things like soil prep, maintenance, harvest, or pest control (which is why I give the book four stars instead of 5). But if you have enough knowledge to handle these issues, you'll find this book to be all you need. If you need another book to cover these issues, I'd highly recommend Anna Pavord's book on Kitchen Gardens.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Something I've wanted for a while..., July 19, 2008
This review is from: Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook (Hardcover)
As a horticulture student, I bought this on a field trip at Pennsylvania's Longwood Gardens. And though I had to truck it with me across 5 states and 2 countries, it's defiantly worth the buy. Not only does Bartley discuss the history of the potager, but she offers insight into both traditional and American gardens as well as helpful hints for the beginning designer. A must have for any kitchen gardener.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Am I Interested in Having a Pretty Garden? Hmm..., February 24, 2009
By 
This review is from: Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook (Hardcover)
While reading "The $64 Tomato", I kept thinking, "Part of this guy's problem is that he doesn't just want his vegetable garden to provide him with vegetables; he wants it to look pretty as well." As far as I was concerned, if my tomato plants give me tomatoes, I'm happy! After reading "Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook", by Jennifer R. Bartley, I now have a little more interest in the idea of a garden that looks nice as well as being tasty.

Perhaps one of the first questions you have is, "What does the word 'potager' mean?" As used in this book, the word refers to "a year-round kitchen garden whose purpose is to supply the kitchen with fresh vegetables and herbs on a daily basis." In addition, she writes, "What makes the potager different from a typical vegetable garden is not just its history, but its design: the potager is a landscape feature that does not have to be hidden in the corner of the backyard, but can be the central feature of an ornamental, all-season landscape -- even in the front yard of a home in the most exclusive residential neighborhood. The potager is a source of herbs, vegetables, and flowers, but it is also a structured garden space, a design based on repetitive geometric patterns."

(Irrelevant bit of trivia: One of the surnames in my family tree is "Pottenger", a corruption of the word "potager", implying that perhaps I had an ancestor who maintained a kitchen garden for someone.)

First of all, this is a gorgeous book! There are wonderful color photos on nearly every page, and it's quite enjoyable just to flip through the book, gazing at the photos and browsing the captions.

The first chapter discusses the origins of the potager, looking at the gardens created in Medieval and Renaissance times. Chapter two continues the history lesson, examining some large old gardens in France. Chapter three moves a bit closer to home, discussing three gardens in the U.S. on a somewhat more reasonable scale. Chapter four takes a slight detour, discussing why people enjoy kitchen gardens.

All of which is fine, but we're now finished with four chapters out of eight and I still haven't really come across anything especially useful! Whenever I read books, I tend to underline bits of particularly interesting information, writing notes in the margin to agree or disagree with whatever point the author is making. (I have a friend who specifically borrows books after I've read them so that she can enjoy reading my notes in the margin.)

After reading four chapters of this book, I still hadn't underlined anything. (That's a pity, because this book has nice wide margins for writing in!)

Finally, in chapter five, "Design Principles of the Modern Potager," the author starts to provide some useful information. Make a diagram of your property. Include structures on neighbors' properties on your diagram, as they can impact your garden. If your garden can't be quite close to the kitchen, create an enjoyable walkway on the way to the garden, since you will be making the journey often. Divide your garden into modules, rather than rows. Design the garden as an outdoor room by providing some sense of enclosure. Place fragrant plants near the entrance to the garden, as that will be an invitation to guests to enter. And so forth. At this point I was underlining lots of stuff!

Chapter six, "Plant Combinations for Design and Sequence," was far less interesting to me. Discussions of contrasting heights, textures, colors, etc, just didn't spark an inspiration with me. There was some useful information in this chapter, however. For example, attempt to design your garden with crop rotation in mind. Create a design for each of the years of the rotation, so that you can ensure that you aren't planting things in the wrong place. In general, plant your perennials and your annuals in separate locations, so that you don't disturb the perennials each year while trying to plant the annuals. Etc.

Chapter seven, "Potager Designs," returned to the earlier theme of presenting examples of potagers, again emphasizing inspiration rather than information. I found more things to underline than in the first four chapters, but significantly less than in the previous two.

Finally, chapter eight, "Building and Maintaining the Edible Garden," provides quite a bit of useful information, discussing ordering seeds; the meanings of terms like hybrid, organic, heirloom, open-pollinated, annual, biennial, perennial, etc.; growing plants from seed; preparing the soil; cover crops and green manures; etc. One useful suggestion in this chapter was to order seed and plants from companies that are close to your area. The idea is that a seed company in Iowa or Missouri is more likely to be carrying varieties that grow well in Illinois than a seed company in Oregon or Florida. I don't know whether that's true, but it at least sounds like it might be true, so I'll keep that in mind.

Although this book has made me somewhat more interested in the idea of a pretty vegetable garden, I still found it rather slow-going to read through it all. The pictures and diagrams were inspiring, but I'm just not a design-oriented type of guy. I can only read so much about complementary colors, contrasting textures, etc, before my eyes glaze over (or, since I tend to read at bedtime, close). Whether I would recommend it to others depends upon how interested you think you might find such topics. However, I admit that I found it somewhat inspiring and it has me thinking along lines that I hadn't previously considered.
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Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook
Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook by Jennifer R. Bartley (Hardcover - May 8, 2006)
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