Americans throughout history have revealed something of themselves-their personalities, desires, and beliefs-in the gardens they create. Rooted in the time and place of their making, as much as in the minds and identities of their makers, gardens mirror the struggles and energies of a changing society. Melding biography, history, and cultural commentary in a one-of-a-kind narrative, "American Eden" offers a dynamic, sweeping look at this country's landscapes and the visionaries behind them. 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 gardening how-to instructions helped bring Americans back into their gardens, while at the same time stoking and exploiting our age-old anxieties about social class.
"American Eden" moves deftly through time and place across America's diverse landscape-from Revolutionary Virginia to the 19th century Hudson Valley to the Gilded Age; from early Central Park to the Arts and Crafts movement, from the Depression era to 1960s suburban California-illuminating the larger history at hand through more personal dramas. And in every age, we observe how old money and new, established and ascendant social groups reveal themselves in their gardens, essentially providing a map of all these tensions, hopes, dreams, aspirations and contradictions, diagrammed on the ground for all to see. An environmental journalist, garden designer, and American historian, Wade Graham is uniquely positioned to write this book. Beautifully illustrated with both color and black and white images, American Eden is at once a different kind of gardening 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 re-invention, of itself.