AMERICAN EDEN by Wade Graham


From Monticello to Central Park: What Our Gardens Tell Us About Who We Are
Email this review


Scrupulous history of American gardens and the imaginative creators who made them possible.

Los Angeles–based garden designer and environmental writer Graham shares a wealth of knowledge on the genesis and development of America’s most striking landscapes. Each a “miniature Utopia,” these leafy environs are a reflection of their respective architects. The author ardently describes the first garden creations of the 1600s, then moves on to the Arts & Crafts romantic naturalism movement in the mid-19th century and Martha Stewart’s unique brand of house-and-garden style, which is interwoven with business savvy and “controlled enthusiasm.” Graham’s visit to the panoramic “founding garden” of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, derived from British poet Alexander Pope’s “cutting-edge” landscaping approach, provides an intimate history of the third president’s life and boundless passion as a dedicated architecture and flora aficionado. The planned landscaping influence of “aesthetic giant” Andrew Jackson Downing paved the way for the blossoming genius of Frederick Law Olmsted, who, in collaboration with architect Calvert Vaux, brought “country to the city” in the redesign of New York’s Prospect Park and Central Park and Boston’s Emerald Necklace, among others. Graham points to the greening of New York’s Chelsea and West Village neighborhoods, the installation of Manhattan’s unique aerial greenway, High Line Park, and Michelle Obama’s White House kitchen garden as examples of a modern “return to agriculture” movement. Accented by paintings, photographs and drawings, the author’s appealing commentary introduces a distinctive line of gardeners and foliage engineers whose work has become timeless.

A bright, comprehensive horticultural celebration written with a fine eye for detail.

Pub Date: April 5th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-158342-1
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2011


NonfictionBRICKS AND MORTALS by Tom Wilkinson
by Tom Wilkinson
NonfictionFOUNDING GARDENERS by Andrea Wulf
by Andrea Wulf
Nonfiction50 GREAT AMERICAN PLACES by Brent D. Glass
by Brent D. Glass