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Book Reviews

With the great number of new titles published in the field of horticulture, we thought it would be helpful to our membership and the public at large to provide book reviews of new titles and books that have withstood the test of time. Each book reviewed here is available at our library.

Mariana Griswold van Rensselaer: A Landscape Critic in the Gilded Age

cover_-_a_landscape_critic_in_the_gilded_age.jpgMariana Griswold van Rensselaer: A Landscape Critic in the Gilded Age

Judith K. Major (University of Virginia Press, 2013)

Reviewed by Pamela Hartford

Mark Twain coined the term ‘Gilded Age’ as a satiric metaphor for the 30 year period following the Civil War, when rapid economic growth through industrialism created myriad opportunities for business ventures as well as increased material comfort. The glitter of these advantages were, to Twain, a thin layer masking the ugly consequences: enormous poverty and suffering.

As a member of the historically entitled 1% class by both birth and marriage, Mariana Griswold Van Rensselaer sought to raise the standards of legions of bourgeois newcomers, instructing them toward becoming discerning clients and patrons. Writing in the most important journals of the day – Century, North American Review, Harper’s, Scribner’s and the Atlantic, as well as professional publications, such as The American Architect and Building News -  Van Rensselaer infused her critiques of architecture and art with values of education and beauty.

Read more: Mariana Griswold van Rensselaer: A Landscape Critic in the Gilded Age

Rosemary Verey: The Life and Lessons of a Legendary Gardener

rosemary_verey_book_cover.jpgRosemary Verey: the Life and Lessons of a Legendary Gardener

Barbara Paul Robinson (David R. Godine (2012))

Reviewed by Maureen Horn, Mass Hort Librarian

Note: Barbara Paul Robinson will speak here, as part of the Library's Author Series, on Thursday, January 31, 2013, from 3:30 to 5:00.

Many of the best English garden designers and writers are little more than names outside of the United Kingdom. Either their work is not associated with the 'great' gardens that have achieved legendary status on both sides of the Atlantic, or else their design esthetic is uniquely British and somehow doesn't 'translate' to America.

Rosemary Verey is the rare combination of designer whose legacy is well established on two continents. Moreover, until shortly before her death in 2001 at 82, she was still designing, still lecturing and still inspiring. And, in Rosemary Verey: the Life and Lessons of a Legendary Gardener, Barbara Paul Robinson has given us a wonderful and personal portrait of an artist.

Read more: Rosemary Verey: The Life and Lessons of a Legendary Gardener

European Gardens: History, Philosophy and Design

Cover - European Gardens

by Tom Turner
(Routledge, London and New York, 2011)

Reviewed by Patrice Todisco

In this richly illustrated book, landscape architect and garden historian, Tom Turner ambitiously traces the evolution of European gardens throughout a 12,000 year period. More than 400 pages in length, European Gardens: History, Philosophy and Design provides a comprehensive introduction to the social, political and artistic ideas that nurtured this unique art form.

Following a design philosophy overview, the book is divided into nine chapters beginning with garden origins and cultivation (10,000 - 1,000 BCE) and concluding with current design trends and abstract and post abstract gardens (1900 - 2000). Although centered on the European tradition, the evolution of gardens in the Fertile Crescent and twentieth century gardens and landscapes in North and South America are described.

Each chapter contains a historic assessment, followed by an analysis of garden plans depicted as style diagrams. References to gardens by notable figures, such as Pliny, are included as well as quotes from contemporary garden and landscape designers. Attention is directed to individual gardens and the context in which they were built, including settlement patterns, urban design principles and regional planning.

Read more: European Gardens: History, Philosophy and Design

Ancient Grains for Modern Meals

Ancient Grains for Modern Meals
Ancient Grains for Modern Meals.

by Maria Speck
(Ten Speed Press, 2011)

Reviewed by Maureen Horn
Mass Hort Librarian

Maria Speck has the good fortune to have been born into two cultures. She is Greek on her mother's side, German on her father's. She has the further good luck to have lived in both countries and absorbed both cultures. Ms. Speck grew up with an appreciation for food and its history. We have the great fortune that Ms. Speck is an excellent writer, storyteller, and cook.

Ancient Grains for Modern Meals gives us beautiful photographs of meals that were invented in countries that have a more distant past than ours, and she shows us how to enjoy them today. She writes of her sense of smell as the most useful key to evoke memories from her childhood. Smell was aided by the sense of taste, as she experienced again the chewy texture of whole grains.

After a young adulthood consuming the processed foods that dominate the American diet, she gradually, then deliberately, replaced them with a regimen of whole grain-based meals because she found that whole grains are the ultimate comfort food. Ms. Speck is not a proselytizer for healthy eating, but of enjoyable eating. She believes strongly that the use of more whole grains leads to less heart disease and diabetes.

Read more: Ancient Grains for Modern Meals

The Maine Garden Journal

By Lisa Colburn (Fern Leaf Publishing Company, 2012)

Reviewed by Maureen Horn, Mass Hort Librarian

To be in Maine in the summer is the nearly universal dream of suburban dwellers of Massachusetts. The Maine Garden Journal will nourish the dream for those already smitten, and it will likely add new aspirants.

Lisa Colburn
Lisa Colburn

Ms. Colburn, an avid gardener, is as enthusiastic about the state's varied climate and shifting geographic conditions as she is about the abundance of plants that can be grown there. She admits that the pervasive cold that often grips the state makes gardening an uncertain occupation, but the challenges make it just that more fulfilling.

Part of the excitement comes from Zone Denial, which is a personal determination to step out of the ordinary and try to grow even tropical plants. The most popular in Maine are cannas, raised for their large leaves, some coming out red, purple and striped. Less prevalent, but just as welcome when they appear are banana leaves, seldom with fruit in Maine. Their huge size, though, makes them awe inspiring.

Read more: The Maine Garden Journal
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About the Massachusetts Horticultural Society

Mass Hort logo newFounded in 1829, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society is dedicated to encouraging the science and practice of horticulture and developing the public's enjoyment, appreciation, and understanding of plants and the environment.

2017 Calendar & Courses

2017 Calendar and Courses

Mass Hort Classes & Events

Tue Mar 28 @ 6:30PM - 08:30PM
Fundamentals of Landscape Design Spring 2017
Sat Apr 08 @10:00AM - 12:00PM
Fundamentals of Landscape Design Spring 2017
Tue Apr 11 @ 1:30PM - 03:00PM
Plants go to War
Thu Apr 13 @10:00AM - 04:00PM
Pleaching, Pollarding, Coppicing and Practices of Pruning
Tue Apr 18 @ 6:30PM - 08:30PM
Fundamentals of Landscape Design Spring 2017
Thu Apr 20 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Preparing Your Soil
Sat Apr 22 @10:00AM - 12:00PM
Seed Starting Workshop
Tue Apr 25 @ 1:30PM - 03:00PM
Bees in Springtime
Thu Apr 27 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Preparing the Garden for Spring and Summer