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The New American Landscape

Leading Voices on the Future of Sustainable Gardening

Edited by Thomas Cristopher


Review by Kerry Lake, Master Gardener

Why ‘Sustainable’ Gardening? What exactly does that mean?  Fourteen of our countries leading voices on gardening define sustainable gardening in 11 essays of this impressive book.  The New American Landscape brings the essence of the sustainable gardening message of these plant pathologists, nurseryman and garden designers, authors, professors, and otherwise authorities on the concept of meeting today’s gardening needs “without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs” (Thomas Christopher).

Each of these 11 essays is a beautifully written philosophy of the author’s approach to sustainable gardening.  If you are familiar with a particular writer, then their composition is a reminder of their approach to healthy gardening.  If you are not familiar with a specific writer, this is a wonderful introduction to their work. Each of the essays include links to references, resources, and other recommended readings. These give us a deeper look into the influences of these authors and furthers our own understanding of sustainable gardening.

Numerous and beautiful photographs accompany each chapter to illustrate the points of the author.

A quick look at the authors:

Chapter 1 Sustainable Solutions: written by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth.

David Deardorff is a botanist and plant pathologist who has written a series of books on What is Wrong with my Fruit Garden/ Vegetable Garden/ Houseplant and How to Fix It. Kathryn Wadsworth is a writer, photographer, and naturalist who leads eco-tours around the world.

Chapter 2 Managing the Home Landscape as a Sustainable Site: written by the Sustainable Site Initiative with Thomas Christopher.

SITES is used by landscape architects, designers, developers and policy makes to align land development and management with sustainable design.  Thomas Christopher is a graduate of the New York Botanical Garden School of Professional Horticulture, has created gardens for clients for forty years. He is the author of many books, including Essential Perennials: The Complete Reference to 2700 Perennials for the Home Garden.

Chapter 3 the New American Meadow Garden: written by John Greenlee with an epilogue from Neil Diboll.

John Greenlee is an expert on grass ecology and an advocate for sustainability.  Neil Diboll is a pioneer is the native plant industry and is recognized internationally as a expert in native plant community ecology.

Chapter 4 Balancing Natives and Exotics in the Garden: written by Rick Drake.

Rick Drake is another proponent of meadow gardens. He served for many years as Curator of Plants at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. He is also a renowned photographer who chronicled the Gardens of the High Line with Piet Oudolf.

Chapter 5 the Sustainable Edible Garden: written by Eric Toensmeier.

Eric Toensmeier is the author of Paradise Lot and Perennial Vegetables, and the co-author of Edible Forest Gardens.

Chapter 6 Gardening Sustainably with a Changing Climate: written by David Wolf.

David Wolf is a Professor of Plant and Soil Ecology in the School of Integrative Plant Science (Horticulture Section) at Cornell University

Chapter 7 Waterwise Gardening: Thomas Christopher.

Thomas Christopher is a graduate of the New York Botanical Garden School of Professional Horticulture, has created gardens for clients for forty years. He is the author of many books, including Essential Perennials: The Complete Reference to 2700 Perennials for the Home Garden.

Chapter 8 Green Roofs in the Sustainable Residential Landscape: written by Ed Snodgrass and Linda McIntyre.

Ed Snodgrass is co-owner of Emory Knoll Farms/Green Roof Plants (along with John Shepley), and co-author of the appropriately titled Green Roof Plants: A Resource and Planting Guide. Linda McIntyre is coauthor of The Green Roof Manual: A Professional Guide to Design, Installation, and Maintenance.

Chapter 9 Flipping the Paradigm: Landscapes That Welcome Wildlife: written by Doug Tallamy

Doug Tallamy is a professor of entomology and wildlife ecology at The University of Delaware. He is proponent of native gardening and biodiversity. He is the author of Bringing Nature Home and The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden.

Chapter 10 Managing Soil Health: written by Elaine Ingham.

Elaine Ingham is a former professor at Oregon State University. She is a microbiologist and soil biology researcher and founder of Soil Foodweb Inc. She is known as a leader in soil microbiology and research of the soil food web. She is an author of the USDA's Soil Biology Primer.

Chapter 11 Landscapes in the Image of Nature: Whole System Garden Design: written by Toby Hemenway.

Toby Hemenway is the author of Gaia's Garden, a book on permaculture, and The Permaculture City. (I highly recommend these books for vegetable gardeners).

I enjoyed reading The New American Landscape as each essay reminds us of good gardening practices and also provides many new ideas for improving our gardens in sustainable ways: 

  • Choosing the right plant (native and/or ‘exotic’) for the specific site:  wetland, dry meadow, hilltop, valley
  • Enriching our soils without costly chemicals for healthier and more resilient plants
  • Better lawn health and lawn alternatives
  • Pest and disease solutions without harmful chemicals
  • Water conservation to preserve our plant investment
  • Habitat for the animals and organisms that inhabit our gardens and garden soil
  • Gardening in a time of unpredictable weather and rapid climate change
  • Whole system garden design with less work on our part and more impact

As gardeners, we want to be good stewards of our landscapes for today and all the tomorrows to come.







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