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Great Gardens of America Hardcover – September 22, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

From Examiner.com (San Francisco)

What makes American gardens ‘American’?

That is the question author Tim Richardson seeks to answer in his stunning new book Great Gardens of America.

Richardson’s tour of America’s great gardens includes historic properties such as Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charleston, Virginia, and Middleton Place outside of Charleston, South Carolina. But he also includes more unusual gardens, such as the Donnell Garden in Sonoma, California with the “most beautiful swimming pool in the world” and the wonderfully stark Baja Garden in the Sonoran Desert surrounding Phoenix, Arizona.

But what makes these gardens uniquely American?

By contrasting them with the historic and famous gardens of Europe, which heavily influenced the design of many American gardens, Richardson concludes that American gardens embrace what he calls the “wilderness ideal.” Sweeping vistas that celebrate the unbounded feel of American wilderness are celebrated by American garden makers. In contrast, says Richardson, even the most naturalistic of European gardens display nature as carefully managed and under control rather than wild.

American gardens as celebrating the wildness of nature is a theme that Richardson revisits throughout the tour of the 25 gardens showcased in the book.

The photographs in the book are by Andrea Jones, an acclaimed photographer who also produced the sumptuous volume Plantworlds.

Don’t mistake Great Gardens of America as a dry an academic treatise or just another coffee table book though. Richardson’s writing is well-researched and often sprinkled with a wry phrase that makes you chuckle when you least expect it. He manages to convey the expanse and feel of the gardens’ character through his narrative—a not insignificant task, if you’ve ever tried describing a garden. There is much to learn from his descriptions and his overarching theme of the American garden as embracing wilderness.



From Bookpleasures.com
Thank you Frances Lincoln Ltd for giving us a publication that allows us to visit some of the great gardens of North America, without having to leave home. This book surveys garden estates and private parks in practically every climate zone in the U.S. and Canada. Twenty five gardens with 300 brilliant photographs are included. For each garden surveyed, the author provides an interesting combination of historical and architectural background that helps to identify the landowner’s personal contribution to the garden design.

This is a remarkable publication in that it defines the uniqueness of North American gardens in contrast to their European counterparts. What makes them different is the American appreciation for wide vistas as opposed to the building or object-focused gardens in Europe. In addition, there is a markedly different attitude towards wilderness. The British gardens were intent on keeping out bandits and wild animals. In North America, there is a frontier mentality of living in harmony with nature. Consequently, we see how American gardens include distant vistas into their design by framing these perspectives with trees and shrubs planted in the foreground. As well, by living in harmony with nature and allowing pastureland to creep up to the front door of the home, the ”cult of the American lawn” was developed.

From The National Gardener
A British garden historian and critic of contemporary landscape architecture, Tim Richardson, puts forth his selection of the top gardens in the United States and Canada in this lavishly illustrated volume on landscape design. Gorgeously photographed by the award-winning photographer Andrea Jones, these enchanting sites are generally located on the east and west coasts of North America and typically on large estates and display gardens. In his appraisal of twenty-five places he summaries the distinguishing qualities of the individual landscapes, ranging in styles from the colonial to the avant-garde; he reports on their histories; their owners’ interests; designers’ goals; and important horticultural collections. Richardson skillfully contrasts the highlighted properties through his organization of chapters, expertly maintaining reader’s interest throughout the book. His critical analyses of the works of leading contemporary landscape architects is insightful and provides the reader with cutting edge knowledge on the direction of modern design. Destined to be a classic for its scholarly survey, the book is a pleasure to read.

From C Magazine
It should come as no surprise that five of the 25 gardens in Great Gardens of America are in the Golden State. From the public wonders of San Marino's Huntington Desert Garden, Cornerstone Place in Sonoma, Santa Barbara's Lotusland and Woodside's Filoli to the private sanctuary of Sonoma's Donnell Garden—each define what author Tim Richardson calls "America's embrace of the wilderness ideal."

About the Author

Tim Richardson is a writer who specializes in garden and landscape design and history. He has been gardens editor at Country Life, and landscape editor at Wallpaper* magazine, and was founding editor of both the award-winning gardens magazine New Eden and Country Life Gardens. He now contributes mostly to the Daily Telegraph, House and Garden, Gardens Illustrated and Country Life. He is the author of Phaidon's The Garden Book, Vanguard Landscapes Gardens of Martha Schwartz, English Gardens of the 20th Century and the award-winning The New English Garden published by Frances Lincoln. He is also editor of Vista: the Culture and Politics of Gardens (Frances Lincoln).

Andrea Jones is one of the world's foremost garden photographers, having built up an international reputation for her photographs of landscape architecture, gardens and plants. The latter was the subject of Andrea's critically acclaimed solo book Plantworlds (2005). She has collaborated on numerous other book projects since Bold Plants and Grasses and Bamboos, both by Noel Kingsbury (1999). Andrea's collection of work forms the stock library Garden Exposures and appears in the international press including Gardens Illustrated, Garden Design (USA), House and Garden and The Daily Telegraph. Based in Scotland, Andrea is a Fellow of the RSA and exhibits her work around the world having had several successful solo exhibitions in both the UK and US. In 2008/9 she was voted Photographer of the Year by her peers in the UK's Garden Media Guild.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Frances Lincoln; Ill edition (September 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0711228868
  • ISBN-13: 978-0711228863
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 1.2 x 12.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,128,955 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Great Gardens of America
By Tim Richardson
Frances Lincoln Ltd
ISBN 9780-7112-2886-3

Thank you Frances Lincoln Ltd for giving us a publication that allows us to visit some of the great gardens of North America, without having to leave home. This book surveys garden estates and private parks in practically every climate zone in the U.S. and Canada. Twenty five gardens with 300 brilliant photographs are included. For each garden surveyed, the author, Tim Richardson, provides an interesting combination of historical and architectural background that helps to identify the landowner's personal contribution to the garden design.

This is a remarkable publication in that it defines the uniqueness of North American gardens in contrast to their European counterparts. What makes them different is the American appreciation for wide vistas as opposed to object or building focused gardens in Europe. In addition, there is a markedly different attitude towards wilderness. The British gardens were intent on keeping out bandits and wild animals. In North America, there is a frontier mentality of living in harmony with nature. Consequently, we see how uniquely American gardens include distant vistas into their design by framing these perspectives with trees and shrubs planted in the foreground. As well, by living in harmony with nature and allowing pastureland to creep up to the front door of the home, the "cult of the American lawn" was developed.

The gardens surveyed in this book range from Jefferson's 18th century Montecello, to an early 20th century Rockefeller estate Kykuit, through modernist gardens commissioned by bold patrons, up to the conceptual curated gardens in Metis Quebec and Sonoma California.
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Format: Hardcover
There is no characteristic style of great gardens of America; as there is for great gardens of England or Italy for example. The wide geographical and climatic range of the United States and Canada and the diversity of influences on the cultures are reflected in the gardens giving them a greater diversity than any other country. The diverse cultural and aesthetic backgrounds of the landscape designers accounts for this too.

More so than other countries, the great gardens of America incorporate and sometimes represent the vegetation and atmosphere of their locations (rather than aim to create sanctuaries distinct from their surroundings). In most cases, the location is the source for the idea or inspiration of the garden.
A location on Long Island for instance lent itself to a house overlooking a pond resembling the famous Shinto shrine at Ise in Japan. The gardens around this house expand on the Japanese reference with their ponds, antiquities, and sculpture seen in Japanese gardens.

This attunement with specifics and moods of the natural world notable in Japanese landscape and garden design is seen too in most of the other gardens. Lurie Park in the city of Chicago carries this approach to an exceptionally imaginative point. This park crisscrossed by walkways is like a patch of original prairie with its wildflowers, grasses, and other vegetation.

Quebec to the American Southwest, the American Northwest to Miami is the territorial range of the gardens. Within this range come gardens in California, New York, Midwestern states, and others. Each of the 25 gardens is viewed in an individual section with an engaging and informative play of words and photographs.
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Format: Hardcover
Buy this book for the writing, not for the photographs. Tim Richardson's text is excellent, giving the reader fascinating background to the historical context of each garden as well as fresh insights to the artistic, emotional, cultural, and even spiritual motivations that lead to the creation of each of them, but he is not served well by Andrea Jones's photographs. While there are scattered examples of pictures that are really lovely, a lot of the photographs are poorly exposed because the photographer had the misfortune of visiting many of the featured gardens on brightly lit, sunny days - very difficult light conditions for garden photography. Consequently, there are many pictures with dark shadows and high contrast (including the cover!) that diminish their effectiveness.
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Format: Hardcover
This beautiful book showcases some of the most spectacular gardens in the United States, illustrated with stunning photographs and engaging text. The author can be critical and opinionated at times but his descriptions and history of the gardens and garden owners is fascinating and humorous (the story of Lotusland's creator Ganna Walska is quite amusing). He discusses the various garden styles and their influences and all types are well represented. Most of the gardens are well known but there are a few surprises and I wondered why some gardens were not included (The Biltmore Garden in N.C. for example).

The gardens included in this book include Kykuit, Vizcaya, Hither Lane, Dumbarton Oaks, LongHouse Reserve, Windcliff, Naumkeag, Huntington Botanical Gardens (desert garden only), Innisfree, Cornerstone Place, Middleton Place, Lotusland, Donnell Garden, Stan Hywet, Rifkind Garden, Les Quatre Vents, Monticello, Baja Garden, Chanticleer, Filoli, Lurie Garden, Miller Garden, Longwood, Metis Garden Festival, Bloedel Reserve.
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