Title: All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses—How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America
Author: Marta McDowell
Genre: History, US History, Horticulture, Gardening
A New York Times Bestseller and AHS Book Award winner
The 18-acres surrounding the White House have been an unwitting witness to history—kings and queens have dined there, bills and treaties have been signed, and presidents have landed and retreated. Throughout it all, the grounds have remained not only beautiful, but also a powerful reflection of American trends. In All the Presidents’ Gardens bestselling author Marta McDowell tells the untold history of the White House Grounds with historical and contemporary photographs, vintage seeds catalogs, and rare glimpses into Presidential pastimes. History buffs will revel in the fascinating tidbits about Lincoln’s goats, Ike’s putting green, Jackie’s iconic roses, and Amy Carter’s tree house. Gardeners will enjoy the information on the plants whose favor has come and gone over the years and the gardeners who have been responsible for it all.
This book is ostensibly about the White House Garden. The portions of the book that deal specifically with the White House Garden are brilliant. There are so many interesting points and asides that come from the creation, maintenance and re-imagining of the White House Garden. If the book was solely about the White House Greenery then I might have rated it 5 stars.
The problems here stem from the admirable attempt of the author to offer context. The need for context takes the reader far from the singular and for much of the book, this is simply the history of the American Garden. I was lost in the minutiae of seed creation and trends in American Gardens.
The entirety of the book mutes the wonders of a great book on White House Gardens. Aficionados of gardening in general and people interested in an unique approach to White House history will love this book. A fun read for the avid gardener in the cold of winter as they wait impatiently for spring to come.
My Rating: 3.5 stars
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I live, garden and write in Chatham, New Jersey where I share my garden with my husband, Kirke, assorted wildlife and approximately 10,000 honey bees. You will often find me at the New York Botanical Garden, where I teach landscape history and gardening courses. My new book, All the Presidents’ Gardens, is coming out from Timber Press in October 2016. (I’m excited!) When I’m not gardening I like to read and knit and cook and eat, though not all at the same time.
My husband, Kirke, summarizes my biography as “I am therefore I dig.”
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Reviewed by: Mr. N