From Frederick Law Olmsted to Richard Neutra, Michelle Obama to our neighbors, Americans throughout history have revealed something of themselves—their personalities, desires, and beliefs—in the gardens they create.
Monticello’s gardens helped Jefferson reconcile his conflicted feelings about slavery—and take his mind off his increasing debt. Edith Wharton’s gardens made her feel more European and superior to her wealthy but insufficiently sophisticated countrymen. Martha Stewart’s how-to instructions helped bring Americans back into their gardens, while at the same time stoking and exploiting our anxieties about social class.
Melding biography, history, and cultural commentary in a one-of-a-kind narrative, American Eden presents a dynamic, sweeping look at this country’s landscapes and the visionaries behind them. American Eden offers an inclusive definition of the garden, considering intentional landscapes that range from domestic kitchen gardens to city parks and national parks, suburban backyards and golf courses, public plazas and Manhattan’s High Line park, reclaimed from freight train tracks. And it exposes the overlap between garden-making and painting, literature, and especially architecture—the garden’s inseparable sibling—to reveal the deep interconnections between the arts and their most inspired practitioners.
Beautifully illustrated with color and black-and-white images, American Eden is at once a different kind of garden book and a different kind of American history, one that offers a compelling, untold story—a saga that mirrors and illuminates our nation’s invention, and constant reinvention, of itself.