The Pleasure Gardens of Virginia: From Jamestown to Jefferson

Peter Martin, Author Princeton University Press $42.5 (240p) ISBN 978-0-691-04786-7
This scholarly monograph is eminently readable. Tracing the history of gardens and gardening in Virginia from its earliest days in the 1600s--when few colonial gardeners recorded their efforts--Martin, professor of English at New England College in England, concentrates on the gardens of Williamsburg (as the seat of government and the ``focus of colonial civilization and culture'') and those of John Custis and William Byrd, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. The trials and frustrations of tilling ground with a climate so unlike Mother England's make interesting reading; it is fascinating to look back to a time and place when so many uncertainties confronted the would-be gardener. A chapter on Mount Vernon and Monticello is filled with horticultural details available only because both ardent gardeners left explicit--and graphic--information. Pleasure Gardens is not, as Martin notes in his preface, a book to be used by the amateur garden restorer to lay out a colonial-style garden. It is instead a volume that goes ``some way toward reconstructing a world almost completely lost to us.'' Illustrated. (July)
Reviewed on: 04/29/1991
Release date: 05/01/1991
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