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The American Woodland Garden: Capturing the Spirit of the Deciduous Forest Hardcover – Illustrated, August 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

With a fine book on ornamental grasses to his credit, Darke turns to summoning forth the spirit, beauty, and natural order of a woodland in the gardens he creates in its image. Darke defines a "Forest Aesthetic," bringing intensity and passion to his revelations of seasonal rhythms and the lyric qualities of light occurring in deciduous environments. Decades spent studying a Pennsylvania locale, Red Clay Creek, form the basis of a subsequent chapter in which Darke melds an authentic ecological stance with the desire to create a garden sanctuary. Identifying aesthetic elements in the most subtle of manifestations, from a tiny dormant bud to dramatic silhouettes of fallen tree trunks, Darke shares a reverie on nature and observations of an applicable artistry. 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. Alice Joyce
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


"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

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 378 pages
  • Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated (August 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0881925454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0881925456
  • Product Dimensions: 10.3 x 1.1 x 11.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rick Darke heads RICK DARKE LLC ( a Pennsylvania USA-based consulting firm specializing in landscape ethics, photography, and contextual design. Darke's work blends art, ecology, horticulture, and cultural geography in the creation, conservation, and management of broadly functional living landscapes.

A knowledgeable field ecologist and horticulturist, Darke's professional experience includes 16 years as Longwood Gardens' Curator of Plants, during which he studied and photographed a great array of world ecologies including those of South Africa, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the Canary Islands, and northern Europe. He continues to travel both hemispheres in search of ideas to sustain and enrich the global garden. His work has been featured on National Public Radio, in The New York Times, the Huffington Post, in Garden Design Magazine, BBC Gardens Illustrated and elsewhere.

Darke's approach to landscape design and management is grounded in first-hand observation of regional ecologies and cultural landscapes. He has studied and photographed North American plants in their habitats for more than 40 years, and this work is reflected in his books including The American Woodland Garden: Capturing the Spirit of the Deciduous Forest (Timber Press, 2002), which was profiled on National Public Radio and also received the American Horticultural Society's Book Award, the Garden Writers Association Golden Globe Award for book photography, the National Arbor Day Foundation's Certificate of Merit.

Darke is recognized as one of the world's experts on grasses and their use in public and private landscapes. His book, The Encyclopedia of Grasses for Livable Landscapes (Timber Press, 2007) includes over 1000 photos of grasses in global landscapes, and is the most complete reference on this subject. It has been published in French (Editions du Rouergue, 2007) and German (Verlag Eugen Ulmer, 2010)

Rick wrote the foreword for Doug Tallamy's shape-changing book, Bringing Nature Home: How you Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants (Timber Press, 2009).

Darke worked with Timber Press to produce The Wild Garden: Expanded Edition (2009). In addition to reproducing the complete unabridged text and all the original illustrations from William Robinson's revolutionary classic, this expanded edition includes new chapters and over 100 photos by Darke, placing Robinson's concept of wild gardening in modern ecological context.

Darke contributed illustrated chapters to two multi-author books published in 2011: The New American Sustainable Garden (Timber Press) includes Rick's chapter on Balancing Natives and Exotics in the Garden. Fallingwater (Rizzoli, 2011) includes his chapter Wright in the Woods: The Nature of Fallingwater's Landscape.

Rick contributed the preface, multiple essays and photography to Annik LaFarge's book On the High Line: Exploring America's Most Original Urban Park (Thames & Hudson 2012). A revised and expanded edition was published in June 2014.

Most recently Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy continued their collaboration with a jointly-authored new book, The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden, published by Timber Press in June 2014. Chapters include "Layers in Wild Landscapes", "The Community of Living Organisms: Why Interrelationships Matter More Than Numbers", "The Ecological Functions of Gardens: What Landscapes Do", "The Art of Observation", and "Applying Layers to the Home Garden". With over 500 photos and 70,000 words The Living Landscape describes and illustrates a broadly inclusive approach to garden design that supports both humans and wildlife.

Later in 2014 Darke's work will appear in The Good Gardener?: Nature, Humanity and the Garden, a multi-author work edited by Annette Giesecke and Naomi Jacobs. Published by Artifice Books on Architecture (London, an imprint of Black Dog Press). This heavily illustrated book will include Darke's chapter titled "The Accidental Landscape". The Good Gardener? is now available for pre-order through Amazon.

Darke is a frequent lecturer on a diverse array of topics relating to gardens and global landscapes. His programs utilize state of the art digital presentation technologies and typically integrate video. For further information visit

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 79 people found the following review helpful By C. Brown on April 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I LOVE this book! I have a pretty extensive library of gardening books, but after relocating to the Northeast and starting landscaping projects here on our wooded lot, I felt I needed more references before going any further. Very few books I've looked at do an adequate job of dealing with shade and woodland gardening with the focus on planting native species. There are a great many very pretty books, with boring, dry or even worthless text, but this book utilizes very readable material and photographic compositions that are helpful AND beautiful. The use of photos of grouped plantings, as opposed to individual specimen photography made it far easier visualize possibilities in my own landscaping projects, and I especially liked his photos contrasting various garden views from one season to the next, emphasizing the idea that the beauty of our woodland landscapes aren't just about the obvious drama of spring or fall, but the unique structure and color of each phase of the year. I feel Mr. Darke did a fantastic job with both his text and photography, providing the ideal balance between beauty and practicality, creating a lovely, readable book that also serves as a great gardening reference.
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97 of 99 people found the following review helpful By Valerie Fletcher Adolph on February 6, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The American Woodland Garden: Capturing the Spirit of the Deciduous Forest. Rick Darke
This is one of the most powerful books about our natural world that I have read in a long time. When I picked it up I expected nothing more that a pleasant read and some attractive photographs. This book contains far more. The author manages to combine science-based knowledge of forest ecology with the eye of the artist and the insight of a philosopher. I haven't enjoyed a tree or garden book in years and I don't even live on that side of the continent.
More than half the population of the U.S. lives on land that used to be one vast deciduous forest. Only a patchwork of remnants remains. Rick Darke, author of "The American Woodland Garden" has attempted the difficult task of writing and photographing a portrait of this forest and offering a guide for those who consider creating a woodland garden both for beauty and for their conservation value.
The photographs alone make this book a worthwhile purchase, especially those of the photographic study of one stretch of Red Clay Creek in Pennsylvania. The author portrays, in photographs and notes, the natural patterns and processes of this tiny section of creek that he passed daily on his way to work. He writes "What began as a simple exercise in observation has proved to be one of the most essential elements in my education as a gardener." The resulting series of photographs is both simple and profound. Most of us know little stream beds like this; often we pass them routinely in our day-to-day commuting. We seldom pause to record the details - a flower is in bloom, a branch has fallen, the way one tree's foliage complements another.
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79 of 80 people found the following review helpful By gfweb on September 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Rick Darke has produced another gem. Darke's approach is unique; part Edwin Way Teale and part Gertrude Jeckyl, he looks at woodland beauty from many aspects; both for the love of it and in order to reproduce it in the garden. The book has four main sections, an appreciation of natural plant arrangements in the forest, a study of a small section of a woodland creek over many years, application of natural design principles in established gardens and a description of horticulturally useful forest plants. Each section is lavishly illustrated with beautiful and well-reproduced photographs.
In the first unit, the author looks at natural woodlands and natural gardens from the point of view of an artist and gardener. His goal is to define those natural combinations that are pleasing and translate them to culture. His discussion of color was particularly novel and helpful.
The second section follows the changes wrought by nature in a section of the Red Clay Creek in SE Pennsylvania. Not merely a catalog of events, this exercise in observation reveals how natural beauty evolves over time and through the seasons.
In the third section, a number of public and private gardens are used to illustrate the authors vision of the narural garden.
Finally, the last part of the book describes the main plants in the northeastern forest. It contains a wealth of cultural and aesthetic information.
Each section alone is worth the price of this handsome volume. This is a garden book to savor and to learn from.
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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I've looked at several woodland garden books, trying to come up with ideas and plants. I must admit I was very disappointed with the selection in stores. Most books just don't have enough pictures or the pictures are black and white and just not what I was looking for. This book is stunning. Excellent paper used and beautiful prints on EVERY page. The photography just honestly blew me away. I enjoyed the fact that on many pages, there were pictures of the same area in all 4 seasons. The glossary of plants in the back of the book was invaluable. Stunning pictures of every plant so you know exactly what you are looking for or considering for purchase. If you are looking for a native woodland garden book that is visually intersting as well as textually rich, this book is for you.
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