Vanished Gardens
Finding Nature in Philadelphia

Sharon White

Encountering an urban landscape through the eye of a gardener

Reviews

"Vanished Gardens, like the gardens of Philadelphia it plots so brilliantly in its pages, presents itself as both highly formal and completely natural in its composition and its fruition. It is a book that saturates space, horizontal and vertical, as well as exhausts time. As with all excellent gardens, everywhere one looks one is delighted, surprised, awed, and restored. And as with all excellent writing about landscape, Vanished Gardens transforms the world before our eyes so that the reader, held in its thrall, begins to see to see."
—Michael Martone, author of Michael Martone

"I know of no book about gardens that comes close to the beauty of Sharon White's Vanished Gardens. Her lyrical prose moves effortlessly through the centuries, through the stories and histories of people and flowers, of rivers and plants. Stunning work."
—Lisa Couturier, author of The Hopes of Snakes & Other Tales from the Urban Landscape


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Description
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.

Series/imprint:
Association of Writers and Writing Programs Award for Creative Nonfiction

Page count: 216 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5

 

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978-0-8203-3156-0
9/15/2008
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3/15/2011
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978-0-8203-3973-3
3/15/2011
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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.