The American Woman’s Garden: A Book Review

Rosemary Verey is a name I know and trust when it comes to garden writing.

So it was an easy decision to buy The American Woman’s Garden when I found it for only a few dollars at a local second-hand bookshop.

Probably Verey’s best known book (and one I highly recommend) is Rosemary Verey’s Making of a Garden, in which she describes the gradual, organic process of creating her own garden at Barnsley House in Gloucestershire.

This book features the gardens created by thirty American women. And while the idea of a “woman’s garden” may strike us as a little old-fashioned (this book was published in 1984), I found that I kept going back to double check the publication date because I was finding so much of value in the garden descriptions and photographs.


A few quick things:

  • Garden photography has come along way! More recent garden books tend to feature photographs taken in the golden light of morning or evening. The harsh sunlight seen in many of these photographs may not be as beautiful, but it is, perhaps, a more honest depiction of how most of us see our gardens most of the time.
  • It’s personal. I loved reading about these gardens in the words of their makers, even if many of the details belong to lives that were very different from our modern ways of living (for instance, do you any of us buy garden plants with the leftover funds from the grocery allowance allocated to us by our husbands??)
  • It celebrates the variety of distinctly American gardens. From east cost to west and in-between. These are city gardens and country gardens. Gardens for collectors, estate gardens, historic gardens, and more modest gardens.


Who is this book for?

Anyone who has ever wanted a private tour of a beautiful garden. Anyone curious about the variety of garden styles and climates in the USA.

I loved reading about the different inspirations for each garden, from vegetable growing to wildflower preservation.


Is this a book to buy or borrow?

I love collecting gardening books with beautiful photography and inspirational gardens.

I’m glad I bought this second-hand copy, but this might be one to borrow from the library.


Some of my favorite quotations from this book:


“I like to think of my garden as a painting–which I hope never to finish.” – Jane Kerr Platt (Portland, Oregon)


“Each year we have new projects. A garden cannot be static; either it is going forward, developing and changing, or it declines. A garden that is not renewed will die of old age just like anything else.” – Sally MacBride (Woodside, California)


“I am happy with my garden as it exists today … the garden is truly mine, and I believe that it gives the impression of being loved and lived in, as indeed it is.” – Lurline Coonan (Woodside, California)


“I have reached an age now when all I collect are sunsets.” – Medora Bass (Santa Barbara, California)


“And one last admonition: Don’t let anyone, man, woman, or child, organize your time for you. If you do, you’ll be sure to find yourself up to your elbows in dishwater or sitting on two or three committees or simply waiting on someone or on everyone, Practice saying no, no, a thousand times no, at least twice a day, and you’ll just barely have enough time to garden. I would be the first to concede that there’s no way any of us can have a perfect garden. But trying to can be just as much fun as ocean racing, bird hunting, ice skating, or being president of the United States of America–and besides, you don’t have to dress the part.” – Emily Whaley (Charleston, South Carolina)


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Posted on

June 30, 2021

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