The Golden Age of American Gardens: Proud Owners * Private Estates * 1890-1940

Mac Griswold, Author, Mack Griswold, Author, Eleanor Weller, With ABRAMS $75 (408p) ISBN 978-0-8109-3358-3
A hybrid mix of social and horticultural history, this book captures the spirit of a largely vanished world. Gardening, as the authors tell us, has long been a favorite pastime of wealthy Americans--a way to do good and to look good. At no time was the passion more prevalent than during a 50-year period spanning the turn of the century, when the affluent embarked on extensive efforts to transform their estates into bucolic showplaces. Griswold and Weller, two writers who are both to the garden born, take the reader on a coast-to-coast tour of these green enclaves, starting in New England and ending up in the Pacific Northwest. By charting the creation, evolution and, in some cases, the demise of both legendary and lesser-known gardens, they capture the mores of an era in which gardens were the product of toil by a large and willing staff and grounds were the scene for many a social stratagem. The authors, acknowledged members of the social class they describe, strike a tone that sounds a tad smug, making much of family names and connections. However, in this book a preoccupation with provenance is perhaps not out of place. Illustrated. Garden Book Club alternate. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1991
Release date: 09/01/1991
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