Garden Gear - Gardening Books

Book Review: The Once And Future Gardener

The Once And Future Gardener:
Garden Writing From The Golden Age Of Magazines 1900-1940,

edited by Virginia Clayton; David R. Godine;
hardcover; 368 pages;
$56.00

"Horticultural porn" is how one writer described the current crop of gardening magazines in a recent National Post story. Try as you might, you won't find anything approaching pornography in the collected articles in The Once and Future Gardener, although you will hear more than one come-hither voice beckoning from the past in these articles, selected from what Virginia Clayton calls the "golden age" of garden magazine writing.

Between the 1890s and the 1930s, the Arts and Crafts movement'begun in England and transplanted across the Atlantic'saw middle-class gardeners reject the opulence and excess that characterized the Victorian era in favour of new, simpler aesthetic standards. Magazines of the day House Beautiful, House and Garden, Ladies' Home Journal were pulpits where academics, writers, clergymen, sociologists and gardeners preached ideas that would have enormous influence on American gardening culture. Deciding what articles to include in the book must have been a thankless task. But the result is a fascinating collection of more than 50 articles as eclectic and sometimes as cheerfully contradictory as the most whimsical perennial border. Walter Prichard Eaton sings the praises of fresh stable manure. Helen R. Albee offers no-nonsense advice for a drought-proof garden.

Walter A. Dyer describes the pleasure of watching a summer rainstorm. Several writers make the case for native plantings with arguments that will also find currency among modern-day readers; one author describes the scandalous practice of pillaging wild plants from the countryside.

Clayton introduces each article with a brief author's biography and provides useful'and often fascinating'endnotes. She includes an extensive bibliography and additional articles, although you'll probably find more than enough in this volume alone to last through a Canadian winter.
-Andrew Vowles

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