Books for Old-House Gardeners

The OHJ editors and writer Tovah Martin share their favorite old-house gardening books.

Tovah Martin, whose garden we see on previous pages, has herself written many articles and books about gardening, including the poetic new book of essays The Garden in Every Sense and Season, with photos by Kindra Clineff. The following recommendations, arranged starting with the most recent published, are available through Amazon:

Books and products mentioned in oldhouseonline stories are chosen by our editors. When you buy through links on this site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The Garden in Every Sense and Season, gardening book

The Garden in Every Sense and Season by Tovah Martin; Timber Press, 2018
Gardening advice is sprinkled amidst grateful explorations of sensory delight in the garden—not just visual, but also smell and sound, touch and taste.

Ellen Shipman and the American Garden by Judith B. Tankard; Univ of Georgia Press, 2018
A study of the foremost woman landscape architect during the first half of the 20th century, this biography plus landscape book shows Shipman’s gardens, which merged Colonial Revival and Arts & Crafts design tenets with an Impressionist planting style.

Landscapes and Gardens for Historic Buildings by Rudy J. and Joy Favretti; Rowman & Littlefield, 1978, 1995, rev. 2017
The groundbreaking “bible,” not a coffee-table book: selecting a period, identifying old plants, research and plan, maintaining historic landscapes.

The New Shade Garden book, gardening book

Gardens of the Arts and Crafts Movement by Judith B. Tankard; Abrams, 2004 
The sweeping, scholarly introduction runs from Lutyens to the architects Greene, with a concentration on Robinson and Jekyll and mentions of Stickley, Mackintosh, Voysey, and Baillie Scott. With photos, drawings, and garden plans.

The New Shade Garden by Ken Druse; Abrams, 2015
All of Druse’s books are recommended; he has a deep understanding of gardening history. This one’s the best introduction to shade gardening.

Rescuing Eden: Preserving America’s Historic Gardens by Caroline Seebohm & Curtice Taylor; Monacelli Press, 2015
Showcases preserved gardens colonial through Gilded Age.

American Home Landscapes: A Design Guide by Denise Wiles Adams & Laura L.S. Burchfield; Timber Press, 2013
Heavily researched and abundantly illustrated volume on 400 years of garden design, maintaining integrity, and modern adaptations.

Antique Garden Ornament by Barbara Israel and Mick Hales; Abrams, 1999
Scholarly work on manmade garden ornament—in America, from colonial days to the 1940s.

Rescuing Eden, gardening book

The New Traditional Garden by Michael Weishan; Ballantine Books, 1999
The well-known garden author tracks “the new golden age of gardening”: tips on selecting a style, garden archaeology, walks and drives, walls and fences, formal and cottage gardens.

Outside the Bungalow: America’s Arts and Crafts Garden by Paul Duchscherer & Douglas Keister; Penguin Studio, 1999
The most hands-on of Arts & Crafts-era garden books, aimed at owners of bungalows, Foursquares, Tudors, and similar houses 1895–1930. Text & photos also address hardscape, outdoor lighting, and period garden structures.

Earth on Her Hands by Starr Ockenga; Clarkson Potter, 1998
This soulful, large-format book is a treat for the eyes and a great read about 18 women gardeners who have tended landscapes over the long haul. —t.m.

Grandmother's Garden, gardening book

Grandmother’s Garden: The Old-Fashioned American Garden 1865–1915 by May Brawley Hill; Abrams, 1995
About the style featuring perennials and annuals, spurred by Colonial Revival sentiment. Both photos and period paintings offer guidance.

Plants from the Past: Old Flowers for New Gardens by David Stuart and James Sutherland; Viking, 1988
This well-researched book will be your constant reference to the history of vintage flowers. A few photos accompany in-depth descriptions of garden oldies but goodies. —t.m.

An Island Garden by Celia Thaxter, illustrations by Childe Hassam; Houghton Mifflin, 1988
First published in 1894 and reissued in several formats, it’s the journal of poet/innkeeper/artist Thaxter chronicling her garden, which lured the 19th-century arts community to a tiny island off Portsmouth, N.H. Amusing, riveting prose describes the garden and solutions to common woes. —t.m.

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