An Author and a Gardener: The Gardens and Friendship of Edith Wharton and Lawrence Johnston

An Author and a Gardener: The Gardens and Friendship of Edith Wharton and Lawrence Johnston

By: Allan R. Ruff (author)Hardback

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In August 1937 a small group of Edith Wharton's intimate friends gathered to pay their last respects at her funeral in France. Among that small group of people was her friend for many years, Lawrence `Johnnie' Johnston, the creator of two famous gardens, at Hidcote Manor, Gloucestershire, in England and Serre de la Madone, Menton, on the Cote d'Azur in the south of France. Wharton and Johnston shared not only a love of nature and gardens but also a shared experience of life. Both were private people who had had very similar childhoods, experiencing the loss of their fathers at an early age. Yet there was one aspect of their lives in which they were very different. Wharton, the writer, chose to expose her innermost thoughts and feelings and was continually in the public eye. Johnston, however, wrote nothing about his gardens, hardly permitted photographs of himself or his gardens and, though he kept an engagement diary, these, with two exceptions, have not survived. As a result Johnston remains a shadowy figure upon whom light occasionally falls from within the diaries kept by Edith Wharton. Her diaries also provide an illuminating insight into both her gardens at St-Brice, and at Hyeres, in the south of France. Wharton was a passionate gardener - an aspect not yet fully explored in previous biographies - early in her life after she had made her first garden at The Mount, at Lenox, Massachusetts in the United States, she claimed she was a better landscape designer than novelist. As fellow gardeners, Edith and Johnnie spent many hours together visiting each other's gardens, staying as house guests, plant-collecting in the Haute Massif and travelling by car to nurseries and gardens throughout England and France. In this major new critical biography Alan Ruff has brought the two together, calling upon his lifetime's knowledge of landscape and garden design to assess the influences and techniques employed in the gardens of these two remarkable people, all set against a long-vanished, high-society background.

About Author

Allan Ruff was formerly Senior Lecturer in Landscape Design and Director of Landscape Studies in the Department of Planning and Landscape, University of Manchester with research interests in the use of native plants in urban areas. He now specialises in landscape and garden history and is presently researching the history of the ecological approach to landscape design in America, the Netherlands and England.


Contents: Acknowledgements Introduction 1. The New York Beginnings 2. The Arbiter of Taste 3.`The Mount' and Italian Gardens 4. The Making of a Gardener 5. The Cotswolds and the American Diaspora 6. Edith Wharton in England 7. Making the Garden at Hidcote 8. The First World War 9. Hidcote and Friends 10. Edith Wharton and her French Gardens 11. Johnston and the French Riviera 12. Plants and Plant Collecting 13. Lawrence Johnston: The Diary Years 1929-1932 14. The Final Chapter 15. Afterwards 16. Conclusions and Legacies Appendix 1. Garden Books in Edith Wharton's Libraries Appendix 2. Chronology 1862- 1960 Appendix 3. The Gardens to Visit Bibliography List of Illustrations, Their Sources and Credits Index

Product Details

  • ISBN13: 9781909686465
  • Format: Hardback
  • Number Of Pages: 360
  • ID: 9781909686465
  • ISBN10: 1909686468

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