Who hasn’t heard of Rachel Carson’s 1962 blockbuster, Silent Spring? It changed the way we looked at our relationship with the natural world, and it continues to make an impression today. Some important books, such as Janet Marinelli’s Stalking The Wild Amaranth: Gardening In The Age of Extinction are out of print (though you can find used copies on BN.com), and there were many other books I would have included in the following list if they were still available, but such is life. Three of the six books I’ve listed here are listed in the American Horticultural Society’s “75 Great American Garden Books.” The other three are my own selections. This is not to say that these books are the only new garden classics, and you may disagree that these deserve the “classic” designation. Only time will tell. But if you're interested in reading about the changing landscape of our world, these are definitely a good place to start.
Published to rave reviews in 1993, Noah's Garden shows us how our landscape style of neat yards and gardens has devastated suburban ecology, wiping out entire communities of plants and animals by stripping bare their habitats and destroying their food supplies. When Stein realized what her intensive efforts at making a traditional garden had done, she set out to "ungarden." Her book interweaves an account of her efforts with an explanation of the ecology of gardens. Noah's Garden has become the bible of the new environmental gardening movement, and the author is one of its most popular spokespersons.
In his articles and in best-selling books such as The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan has established himself as one of our most important and beloved writers on modern man's place in the natural world. A new literary classic, Second Nature has become a manifesto not just for gardeners but for environmentalists everywhere. Chosen by the American Horticultural Society as one of the seventy-five greatest books ever written about gardening, Second Nature captures the rhythms of our everyday engagement with the outdoors in all its glory and exasperation. With chapters ranging from a reconsideration of the Great American Lawn, a dispatch from one man's war with a woodchuck, to an essay about the sexual politics of roses, Pollan has created a passionate and eloquent argument for reconceiving our relationship with nature.
Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate is fundamental work that permeates your entire life. It demands your energy and heart, and it gives you back great treasures as well, like a fortified sense of humor, an appreciation for paradox, and a huge harvest of Dinosaur kale and tiny red potatoes.
For more than thirty years, Wendy Johnson has been meditating and gardening at the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in northern California, where the fields curve like an enormous green dragon between the hills and the ocean. Renowned for its pioneering role in California’s food revolution, Green Gulch provides choice produce to farmers markets and to San Francisco’s Greens restaurant. Now Johnson has distilled her lifetime of experience into this extraordinary celebration of inner and outer growth, showing how the garden cultivates the gardener even as she digs beds, heaps up compost, plants flowers and fruit trees, and harvests bushels of organic vegetables.
Johnson is a hands-on, on-her-knees gardener, and she shares with the reader a wealth of practical knowledge and fascinating garden lore. But she is also a lover of the untamed and weedy, and she evokes through her exquisite prose an abiding appreciation for the earth—both cultivated and forever wild—in a book sure to earn a place in the great tradition of American nature writing.
Humans have long turned to gardens—both real and imaginary—for sanctuary from the frenzy and tumult that surrounds them. Those gardens may be as far away from everyday reality as Gilgamesh’s garden of the gods or as near as our own backyard, but in their very conception and the marks they bear of human care and cultivation, gardens stand as restorative, nourishing, necessary havens.
With Gardens, Robert Pogue Harrison graces readers with a thoughtful, wide-ranging examination of the many ways gardens evoke the human condition. Moving from the gardens of ancient philosophers to the gardens of homeless people in contemporary New York, he shows how, again and again, the garden has served as a check against the destruction and losses of history. The ancients, explains Harrison, viewed gardens as both a model and a location for the laborious self-cultivation and self-improvement that are essential to serenity and enlightenment, an association that has continued throughout the ages. The Bible and Qur’an; Plato’s Academy and Epicurus’s Garden School; Zen rock and Islamic carpet gardens; Boccaccio, Rihaku, Capek, Cao Xueqin, Italo Calvino, Ariosto, Michel Tournier, and Hannah Arendt—all come into play as this work explores the ways in which the concept and reality of the garden has informed human thinking about mortality, order, and power.
This classic of landscape architecture has been required reading for the residential garden design professional, student, and generalist since its publication in 1955. Gardens Are for People contains the essence of Thomas Church's design philosophy and much practical advice. Amply illustrated by site plans and photographs of some of the 2,000 gardens Church designed during the course of his career, the third edition has a new Preface as well as a selected bibliography of writings by and about Church.
Called "the last great traditional designer and the first great modern designer, "Church was one of the central figures in the development of the modern California garden. For the first time, West Coast designers based their work not on imitation of East Coast traditions, but on climatic, landscape, and lifestyle characteristics unique to California and the West. Church viewed the garden as a logical extension of the house, with one extending naturally into the other. His plans reflect the personality and practical needs of the homeowner, as well as a pragmatic response to the logistical demands of the site.
For the past 36 years, Des Kennedy and his family have lived largely outside their hand-built house in intimate contact with the Earth—its creatures, its changing seasons, and its weather patterns. In this charming book’s 52 chapters, Kennedy brings readers deep into his garden, week by week, from winter’s dormancy to summer’s splendor. With his trademark self-effacing humor, the author captures the essence of the gardening experience, exploring his triumphs, failures, mishaps, and occasional magic. Undaunted by setbacks and lusting for the perfect garden, Kennedy takes readers with him on a gardening journey rich with insights and adventures. The effects of devastating snow storms; the slow-food cuisine of rutabagas, parsnips, and carrots; the gardener's inalienable right to dress in rags; the outlandish behaviour and florid oratory induced by flowering poppies—these and scores of other topics meander through the book's gardening year alternately informing, inspiring, and amusing.
Becke Davis is the senior writer for The Landscape Contractor magazine, a member of Garden Writers of America and the Ohio Nursery and Landscape Association. She has written well over 1,000 published articles and is the author of five garden-related books in addition to being the moderator of B&N's Garden and Mystery book clubs.