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Of Gardens

Selected Essays

By Paula Deitz

Publication Year: 2011

Paula Deitz has delighted readers for more than thirty years with her vivid descriptions of both famous and hidden landscapes. Her writings allow readers to share in the experience of her extensive travels, from the waterways of Britain's Castle Howard to the Japanese gardens of Kyoto, and home again to New York City's Central Park. Collected for the first time, the essays in Of Gardens record her great adventure of continual discovery, not only of the artful beauty of individual gardens but also of the intellectual and historical threads that weave them into patterns of civilization, from the modest garden for family subsistence to major urban developments. Deitz's essays describe how people, over many centuries and in many lands, have expressed their originality by devoting themselves to cultivation and conservation.

During a visit to the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Garden in Seal Harbor, Maine, Deitz first came to appreciate the notion that landscape architecture can be as intricately conceived as any major structure and is, indeed, the means by which we redeem the natural environment through design. Years later, as she wandered through the gardens of Versailles, she realized that because gardens give structure without confinement, they encourage a liberation of movement and thought. In Of Gardens, we follow Deitz down paths of revelation, viewing "A Bouquet of British Parks: Liverpool, Edinburgh, and London"; the parks and promenades of Jerusalem; the Moonlight Garden of the Taj Mahal; a Tuscan-style villa in southern California; and the rooftop garden at Tokyo's Mori Center, among many other sites.

Deitz covers individual landscape architects and designers, including André Le Nôtre, Frederick Law Olmsted, Beatrix Farrand, Russell Page, and Michael Van Valkenburgh. She then features an array of parks, public places, and gardens before turning her attention to the burgeoning business of flower shows. The volume concludes with a memorable poetic epilogue entitled "A Winter Garden of Yellow."

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Penn Studies in Landscape Architecture

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii-x

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pp. xiii-xvii

In 1625, the British philosopher and empiricist Francis Bacon wrote in his seminal essay “Of Gardens” that without gardens “buildings and palaces are but gross handiworks,” and that even “when ages grow to civility and elegancy, men come to build stately sooner than to garden finely...

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Prologue: The Lure of the Porch in Summer: Privacy and Pleasure

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pp. 1-5

Without a porch, life at my summer place in Maine seemed incomplete. A granite patio-terrace adjoining the main house suited everyone as a gathering space for eating, drinking, and socializing—until the sun went down and the mosquitoes drove us inside. Nearby, however, was...

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Chapter One: Landscape Architects and Designers

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pp. 6-75

When Edith Wharton went abroad in 1902 to write Italian Villas and Their Gardens, she felt she was better known for her knowledge of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century architecture than for her novels. Reading this work gives the sense of how the American eye perceived the Italian...

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Chapter Two: Parks and Public Places

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pp. 76-165

The slant of late afternoon sun enhanced the spring green of New York’s Central Park as I walked home along its winding paths and around the still, dark waters of the reservoir. Although I had walked this route hundreds of times over the years, the experience was enriched...

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Chapter Three: American

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pp. 166-219

America was founded on the traditions of other cultures, and the customs and forms of those societies were transported to new soil. The great plantations of the South and the country estates of the North retained from their European antecedents either the axial formality of the seventeenth-century...

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Chapter Four: British

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pp. 220-263

On a gentle slope rising above the winding river Cherwell near Steeple Aston, in Oxfordshire, England, a woodland path at the edge of a close-cropped bowling green, north of a Jacobean stone house, runs into a small park. The path widens through a series of sun-dappled glades...

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Chapter Five: French

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pp. 264-291

Thus begins Louis XIV’s walking tour of the gardens of Versailles. Never published in his lifetime, the six versions of this tour, recorded either in his own hand or by secretaries between 1689 and 1705, were used as guides to lead official visitors through the groves and around...

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Chapter Six: Japanese

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pp. 292-317

Long before the International style in architecture gave cities all over the world a similar look, garden designs spread over the centuries from country to country. Without traveling at all, a garden aficionado could visit Italian terraces, French parterres, or English borders. ...

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Chapter Seven: Flower Shows

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pp. 318-327

Before I settled in for this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, I crossed the Channel to attend the increasingly popular plant sale known as the Journées des plantes de Courson. What began in 1982 as an informal plant exchange between members of the Association des Parcs Botaniques de France...

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Epilogue. A Winter Garden of Yellow

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pp. 328-331

On drizzly winter mornings, I often stand at a corner window, hot mug of milk in hand, looking down on Park Avenue. The moment has to be right, a little after eight o’clock. Suddenly, moving slowly up and down both sides of the center islands, school buses and taxis fill the slick dark avenue...

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pp. 332-335

Public interest and awareness of garden-making and garden-visiting are more extensive and probably better informed than ever before, fuelled in part by an increasing concern with environmental issues. Books, magazines, articles, exhibitions, garden festivals, and radio and television...


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pp. 337-338


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pp. 339-362

Photography Credits

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pp. 363

E-ISBN-13: 9780812206968
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812242669

Page Count: 384
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Penn Studies in Landscape Architecture