Pub. Date:
University of Georgia Press
Vanished Gardens: Finding Nature in Philadelphia

Vanished Gardens: Finding Nature in Philadelphia

by Sharon White
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New to living and gardening in Philadelphia, Sharon White begins a journey through the landscape of the city, past and present, in Vanished Gardens. In prose now as precise and considered as the paths in a parterre, now as flowing and lyrical as an Olmsted vista, White explores Philadelphia's gardens as a part of the city's ecosystem and animates the lives of individual gardeners and naturalists working in the area around her home.

In one section of the book, White tours the gardens of colonial botanist John Bartram; his wife, Ann; and their son, writer and naturalist William. Other chapters focus on Deborah Logan, who kept a record of her life on a large farm in the late eighteenth century, and Mary Gibson Henry, twentieth-century botanist, plant collector, and namesake of the lily Hymenocallis henryae. Throughout White weaves passages from diaries, letters, and memoirs from significant Philadephia gardeners into her own striking prose, transforming each place she examines into a palimpsest of the underlying earth and the human landscapes layered over it.

White gives a surprising portrait of the resilience and richness of the natural world in Philadelphia and of the ways that gardening can connect nature to urban space. She shows that although gardens may vanish forever, the meaning and solace inherent in the act of gardening are always waiting to be discovered anew.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780820331560
Publisher: University of Georgia Press
Publication date: 09/01/2008
Series: Association of Writers and Writing Programs Award for Creative Nonfiction Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 216
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Sharon White is the author of a collection of poetry, Bone House. Her memoir, Field Notes: A Geography of Mourning, received the Julia Ward Howe Prize, Honorable Mention, from the Boston Author's Club. Some of her other awards include a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship for Creative Nonfiction, the Leeway Foundation Award for Achievement, a Colorado Council on the Arts Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Her poems, essays, and articles have appeared in many magazines and journals, including Isotope, House Beautiful, Appalachia, Kalliope, and North American Review. She teaches writing at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Table of Contents

1. Grapefruit 3
2. Boxwood 5
3. Daffodil 7
4. Hornbeam 13
5. Lemons 24
6. Wild Grasses 31
7. Tulip Tree 34
8. Catalpa 41
9. Water Lilies 45
10. Peony 49
11. Bamboo 53
12. Thistle 59
13. Snapdragon 63
14. Holly Tree 67
15. Elm 73
16. Skunk Cabbage 78

17. Pennyroyal 85
18. Marsh Grass 93
19. Oranges 100
20. Wild Rice 109
21. Bloodroot 112
22. Shadblow 116
23. The Lady Petre Pear Tree 118
24. Zinnia 120
25. Snowdrops 125
26. Columbine 132
27. Morning Glory 138
28. Mint 140
29. Sunflower 146
30. Poinsettia 151
31. Rose 155
32. Gingko 156

33. Auricula 161
34. Violets 169
35. Catkins 172
36. Honeysuckle 178
37. Franklinia 183
38. Carnations 192
39. Strawberry 194

Acknowledgments 197
Sources 199

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Vanished Gardens: Finding Nature in Philadelphia 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
briantomlin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was a great find, especially great for winter reading during the recent snow storm. The book combines a discussion of plants that grow in the city with city history. But the book is not nearly as dry as that makes it sound. The book is filled with descriptions of pastoral scenes, descriptions of varieties of plants, of famous gardens of the past, of eccentric gardeners. White's style is especially effective in conveying a sense of connection among people who have gardened and loved gardening in Philadelphia over the last few centuries. She achieves this way of making history come alive by anchoring in her own life experiences. The book reads like a sort of formalized journal that wanders off into the lives of other people. Woven expertly into these contemporary explorations are the stories and exploits of people of the past.When White writes, toward the beginning of the book, "The more I live in my corner of Philadelphia, the more it seems that the city is an extensive garden, a bit wild in parts" (p.4). For someone living in Center City, that is a great eye-opener; beauty and nature are all around us, even in what seems to be the most urban settings. All we have to do is open our eyes and see it, whether it is plants growing in a hidden spot, or a sense of the past and what has come before.