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Restoring American Gardens: An Encyclopedia of Heirloom Ornamental Plants, 1640-1940 Hardcover – Illustrated, February 1, 2004

5.0 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Horticulturalist and ornamental plant historian Adams hopes "that everyone will choose to garden with heirloom plants." This extensive exploration of the evolution of American gardens will inspire many readers to do just that. Home gardeners will discover untried plants and rediscover familiar ones from a rich historical perspective, while professional and amateur designers alike will find a wealth of practical information on how to approach the historic landscape, document key features, develop a list of appropriate plants and pursue investigations. Furthermore, the book has considerable appeal for non-gardeners, as Adams offers many insights into the development of American domestic culture. Early chapters briskly review the art and science of historic gardens. From there, Adams's enthusiasm is infectious, as she explains techniques for interpreting old garden sites, describes design styles for typical building types and discusses traditions in different geographic regions. The bulk of the volume-the encyclopedia itself-differs from usual plant listings by including incisive design notes and remarks. Whenever possible, Adams quotes original sources, creating a brief historical record for each plant. Antique and contemporary photographs and illustrations support the text and offer glimpses of American gardens of the past. Ample, detailed appendices and a comprehensive bibliography add greater value to what's destined to become an indispensable reference for anyone interested in heirloom ornamentals and their history.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

As the trend to restore or rehabilitate one's garden increases among individuals who possess property endowed with a historic provenance, so, too, does the need for further research into the gardenscapes of earlier eras. Thus, Adams' effort is most timely, and the abundant material on ornamental plants she presents covers more than 1,000 that are considered to be cultural heirlooms--species that most definitely merit conservation. Adams provides information to help determine garden elements that once existed on a given plot of land, and guidance on how to decide on period features suited to the architecture of a given setting. She also scrutinizes traditions relating to geographic regions from coast to coast, and presents extensive appendixes that should gratify the most detail-oriented reader. The home gardener, professional landscape designer, bed-and-breakfast proprietor, and all those who have taken to heart the task of re-creating plantings that are in keeping with a mode of yesteryear will love delving into this satisfying, well-organized, and beautifully produced resource. Alice Joyce
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated; y First edition edition (February 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0881926191
  • ISBN-13: 978-0881926194
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 1.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #455,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is an amazing piece of research and one of the few books whose appendices are a "must read".
The bok is about American ornamental plant history - the story of garden plants from their introduction, usually from Europe, or from the local fields and forests. It answers questions such as "Who first cultivated it in America?", "How was it used?", "Who propagated or sold it?" and "Why was it popular?".
The writer consulted over 300 seed and nursery catalogues from all over the US and ended up with a data base of over 25,000 different taxa.
The first chapter of the book looks at the historical detail of the garden landscape and it is illustrated with well-selected photographs, many taken from postcards. The second chapter links the gardens to the architectural styles from different time periods and the third chapter looks at the way garden styles evolved in different regions of the country. The largest part of the book is a catalogue of over 1000 heirloom plants - trees, shrubs, vines, perennials and roses that were offered for sale between 1719 - 1939. For each plant there is given common names, family, date of introduction, earliest American citation, zones and description, taken from the garden writers of history.
This book presents a vast amount of material and it's a treasure trove for the garden historian. Even the most casual reader will enjoy the historical and botanical illustrations. It really is a treat to find such a well-organized work of scholarship that is so readable and attractively presented.
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Format: Hardcover
Gardeners who enjoy a healthy dose of gardening history in their guides will find Denise Wiles Adams' Restoring American Gardens a treasure trove of information on heirloom ornamentals from 1640-1940. Small color photos of each plant abound, but it's the paragraphs of description for each, including garden design notes and special remarks, which sets this apart from competitors.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book forever ago and I don't know why I am not reviewing this sooner. This book is my go-to restoration guide for historic landscapes. In the preservation field, I am often asked what did the gardens look like and how can we turn our blah yard into something spectacular. This book offers such a solution. I have marked off so many different tabs of plants and their historic uses that I may have to order a newer printing of this book! It's illustrated and balanced with a useful amount of text. I highly recommend this book if you're looking to restore or create a historic looking landscape.
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Format: Hardcover
Would you like to know what seeds were available to the Midwest in the 1850's and which vendors had them? Or when exactly did Lilacs arrive in California? Then this book is a must have. Breaking the USA into chunk and then by date makes this book very well organized, with fascinating photographs, beautiful pen and ink botanical and plan illustrations and period advertisements . Not to mention the stupendous index of plants and cultivars. If you have a period house whose garden you would like to restore, this book is an invaluable resource. I am restoring a 1920's bungalow and it's been a delight with this book. It includes sources for plants and seeds and reference materials. Although I'm not sure how up to date this is as it is seven years later. Buy it!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved reading about plant fashions in gardens and when certain plants were introduced to our gardens. My yard features some of the old faves, and now I need to get more, especially the natives to my area.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Any garden designer or public garden wrestling with restoring historic gardens and landscapes should have a copy of this close to hand. The region-by-region Appendix of plants brought to areas of the USA and their timing was invaluable in making plant selections for the Heirloom Garden at the Rogerson Clematis Garden outside Lake Oswego OR. The research was thorough and results fascinating.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had a heritage garden to restore and needed some information on the types of plants grown around the 1800's. This book was the perfect answer to all my questions.

The format is perfect for getting the pertinent data without having to read through pages of trivia. Although at the end of each plant story there is a remark section that does give you something historically interesting. Among other things you are given the introduction date, zone, description, earliest american citation, design notes, and more. There are some modern pictures of the plants but they are not really necessary. I liked seeing the old drawings and photos. The book is divided by plant groupings: vines, annuals, tropicals, etc, which made it easy for me to find a plant for the area I was working on.

The one area of the book that didn't work for me was the Historic Commercial Plant Sources. The information may have been pertinent but it was laid out in such a way that I spent more time trying to figure out the "code" than I did in gaining any knowledge.

That aside, this is a wonderful book that I will be using a lot as I do more historic garden designs.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was a little disappointed to see that all the photos are black and white, Perhaps the description said that and I missed it. But overall, it has useful info.
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