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A Century of Gardens

The satisfactions of gardening are many and timeless. Through the art of gardening, each age and culture develops its own relationship to the landscape it inhabits, a relationship informed by its conception of nature and of humanity's proper role in the natural world. Likewise, it is the task of every individual gardener confronting a raw bit of land to give it meaningful shape in accordance with his or her own self-conceptions, ideologies, and tastes.

Frances Duncan's rhapsodic musings on the romantic pleasure garden of her era in "Gardens and Garden-Craft," (October, 1902), may reawaken in the modern gardener a taste for the garden both as an otherworldly realm of "dreamy charm" and "green delights," and as a restorative bower of refuge from the harsh "workaday" world. H. G. Dwight's essay, "Gardens and Gardens" (July, 1912), pointing to the spirit of the Italian garden as a worthy model for American gardeners, argues that one culture can look to another as a source of inspiration for its gardens without abandoning its own identity. Ethel Anderson's lyrical description of her vision of the ideal moonlight garden on a promontory overlooking the ocean in "A Garden for Moonlight" (August, 1936) may enchant some contemporary gardeners, inspiring them to yield to whim and personal fantasy when designing their gardens. And finally, Josephine Johnson's detailed observations of the vegetation and wildlife in her September garden, ("September Harvest") (September, 1953), may reassure aspiring gardeners that the timeless joys of nature appreciation, observation, and contemplation are to be afforded by any garden, regardless of style, time-period, or culture.

Copyright © 1996 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
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