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Book Reviews

With the great number of new titles published in the field of horticulture, we thought it would be helpful to our membership and the public at large to provide book reviews of new titles and books that have withstood the test of time. Each book reviewed here is available at our library.

The London Square: Gardens in the Midst of Town

The London Square
The London Square: Gardens in the Midst of Town

by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan
(New Haven:Yale University Press, 2012)

Reviewed by Patrice Todisco

This has been an exciting year for London as the city celebrated the Queen's Jubilee and hosts the summer Olympics. Creating unparalleled opportunities to highlight history and culture within a framework of modern design and innovation both events have featured all that makes London unique, including its beloved public spaces.

Landscape architect and historian, Todd Longstaffe-Gowan has written The London Square: Gardens in the Midst of Town, a comprehensive survey of the political, social and environmental forces and complex mix of users and uses that created the urban form most distinctly aligned with London - the residential garden square.

Elegantly written and extensively illustrated, The London Square: Gardens in the Midst of Town traces the evolution of the iconic space from the 17th century to the present day, providing an unflinching evaluation of both its positive and negative attributes. Despite a range of threats to its integrity, from inadequate maintenance to traffic encroachments, the residential square has persevered as an enduring symbol of the city representing the "pride of London's planning."

An Englishman's Garden

Edward Hyams An Englishman's GardenAn Englishman's Garden is but one of the 100 books Edward Hyams wrote. Hyams, 1910 - 1975, was a rather extraordinary man. He was born into a comfortably middle class family, well educated at excellent schools and when his father's work took them to France attended a lycée in Paris and university in Lausanne. Hyams became completely bilingual and frequently translated significant books for the English market. Those of us old enough to have read Zoe Oldenbourg's The Cornerstone will have read it in Hyams' translation.

After serving in the Royal Navy in WWII he threw up his urban existence and moved permanently to a small property in Kent. The war had shown him the futility of his previous life and he wanted to get back to basics. Fortunately his wife agreed. In1961 they moved to a rather dilapidated vicarage in Devonshire and spent the next few years building a garden.

In the mornings Hyams wrote articles and books to earn enough money to keep them going. He spent the rest of the time doing very heavy manual labor in the garden. An Englishman's Garden is the account of that experience. Country parsons received vast drafty houses with their livings because of their large families. That was fine as long as they came from the wealthy classes and used their own (or their wives', see Barchester Towers) money to keep everything up. With the decline of the established English church all this changed and the vicarages were too expensive to maintain.

A Cautionary Tale

Wicked PlantsWicked Plants : the weed that killed Lincoln's mother & other botanical atrocities , by Amy Stewart (Algonquin Books, 2009) is one small book for many people. Those who would pick it up could include historians of daily life, mystery writers in search of a poison to use for the perfect murder, experimental gardeners, and students of book design. It is the winner of the 2010 American Horticultural Society Book Award.

Its premise is that in almost any natural setting, there are villains lurking. Stewart writes in a mock macabre, even humorous, tone, but the facts are serious because almost 69,000 people annually are killed by poisonous plants. She chides parents who will take care to cover electrical outlets and think nothing of allowing a noxious weed to grow by their front door.

Restoring American Gardens

A sign of maturity in a society is the desire to retain tangible evidence of the past, rather than to erase it roughly and thrust ever forward. Gardens are an important part of our heritage, but are very fragile and hard to restore. One aspect of doing this successfully is knowing which plants were available during the period of the garden’s creation. Nothing is worse than planting anachronistic species when trying to maintain an authentic atmosphere.

Colour Schemes for the Garden

A classic English spinster, severe in appearance, beyond frumpy, and fiercely dedicated to art and beauty, Gertrude Jekyll was born in 1843 and died in 1932. She left us an undying legacy of gardening. She taught us how to look and how to see.

Miss Jekyll could be a very intimidating presence for the careless or slovenly gardener. The great Graham Stuart Thomas recalled going to tea with her when he was about 17 and just starting his gardening career. Class was still very important in England at the time. Miss Jekyll was definitely upper class and young Thomas was only lower middle or upper working class. His employer recommended him to Miss Jekyll as a very likely lad.

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About the Massachusetts Horticultural Society

Mass Hort logo newFounded in 1829, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society is dedicated to encouraging the science and practice of horticulture and developing the public's enjoyment, appreciation, and understanding of plants and the environment.

2018 Calendar & Courses

2018 Masshort Courses

Mass Hort Classes & Events

Thu Apr 19 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Landscaping and Planting Design
Sat Apr 21 @10:00AM - 02:00PM
Grafting Fruit Trees
Tue Apr 24 @ 9:00AM - 12:00PM
Improve Your Watercolor Skills - Morning Course
Tue Apr 24 @12:30PM - 03:30PM
Improve Your Watercolor Skills - Afternoon Course
Thu May 03 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Sun May 06 @10:30AM - 12:00PM
Early Season Gardening Workshop
Thu May 17 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Greenhouse Growing
Tue May 22 @ 1:00PM - 05:00PM
Landscaping for Watershed Health
Wed May 30 @ 9:00AM - 03:00PM
Spring Landscape Tour
Wed Jun 06 @ 7:00PM - 09:00PM
Hands-On Floral Design
Thu Jun 07 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Bio-control of Lily Leaf Beetles
Tue Jun 12 @ 1:00PM - 04:30PM
Eco Printing: Fiber art workshop
Tue Jun 26 @10:30AM - 12:00PM
Explore the Teaching Herb Garden
Wed Jul 11 @10:00AM - 02:00PM
The Art of Planting Design
Wed Jul 18 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Summer Stroll: Garden tour
Sun Jul 22 @10:30AM - 12:00PM
What's Buggin' Me?
Sat Aug 04 @10:30AM - 12:00PM
Fall Planting Workshop
Thu Aug 09 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
A Summer Stroll: Garden Tour
Sun Aug 12 @10:00AM - 04:00PM
Meditations in Ink with Bruce Iverson