American Roots is a useful and wonderful book about many gardens in the Midwest, the East Coast, the South and the West. Naturally I turned first to the East Coast. The first gardens I saw were designed and planted by John Gwynn and Mikel Folcarelli who live on the Sakonnet Penninsula in Rhode Island.
These gardeners have a lot to say and make some good suggestions. John said his garden is a folly, and Mikel thinks it is like a lobster trap. “You go in and get all twisted about and feel like it’s 100 acres, but it is only one!” It certainly has a quirkiness – at times – but there are many ways they arrange their plants, from a flowering meadow buzzing with bees to an arrangement of “glowing chartreuse-leafed plants.
There is a sense of wildness in in this garden with thickets of wonderful plants – and bees. They installed many plants that feed the butterflies and bees. Supporting the creatures of the garden is important now that we understand what those creatures mean to the world.
As Gwynne and Mikel take us through their gardens they show us many ways of arranging plants, of walking through the garden and creating ways of arranging drama.
But John Holm is also from the East. This gardener is especially in love with grasses, and shows us an array of his favorite plants from ‘Hakonechloa macra’ which is truly a wonderful grass, to a very familiar Allium ‘Millenium’ which he uses in his garden. I was delighted to know that he had also worked at the New York City’s High Line, which I loved.
John loves the grasses, and offers the way a meadow – or a lawn -can be a prairie dropseed meadow. He also has created a scree garden. A scree garden is just a gravel garden which accepts alpines and succulents. It is amazing how many kinds of plants exist in our gardens, and the way they can be used.
Jeanette Bell of New Orleans.
Now Jeanette Bell has brought us to the South. She comes to us from New Orleans. There she saw potential in a blighted vacant lot, a useful space for a clever gardener. It took work and time but she worked, no matter the difficulties – like Hurricane Katrina! She came to see the need for more food and added vegetables to her flower garden. She worked with others in the community to bring back old and forgotten fruits like “vegetable pears” and a bumpy pear-shaped squash after Katrina.
I love roses myself and was pleased to see this array of roses – not all of her roses are shown here. It is possible that at one time she cared for 400 roses. Roses are not the only plants that Jeanette cares for. She made a large, very large, strawberry tower which could provide a lot of strawberries in a small spot where it is sunny and water is provided. She is also thrifty in recycling garden clothes, repurposing bottles, and using containers, with holes for water, for vegetables. She is a smart and ready woman.
Scot Eckley is our gardener of the West, Seattle Washington. He has worked for large landscapes, but nowadays he prefers working on small properties. Currently he and his partner Devin Fitzpatrick have moved to Seattle and chose a small house. They quickly went to work on the outdoor spaces. It is not a large space, but the backyard has a fireplace and a dining terrace, near the back door. There is more than that, of course.
I was delighted to see that the back of his property includes plants like a tall birch and mophead hydrangeas which I have in in my backyard. There are many other plants like Japanese forest grasses – which I am now considering to add to my backyard garden.
Now we come to the trio who brought us American Roots – Nick who is the curator of this book, Allison who designed it, and Teresa Woodard who wrote the book.
Nick and Allison have their own favorites in the garden the garden rooms for the two of then, working to create mystery for Nick, and a cutting garden for Allison. But there is so much more.
The children have their own garden favorites and wander through all the views and places to sit, eat and play.
American Roots (Timber Press $40.) is a wonderful and fascinating book about gardens, and most important, all the gardeners! I have already followed their suggestions – before I even knew about them – but I also see ways I make my garden even prettier. I think other readers will enjoy this beautiful book, and think about how to make some new additions or changes in their own garden.