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A Brief History of Gardening

A Brief History of Gardening
Neil Fairbaim
Rodale Press
Publication Date: 

cloth, 256 p., $30

Neil Fairbaim takes a broad and daunting topic and turns it into an easily readable, beautifully illustrated little book. The author combines a thorough historical timeline with interesting short stories about Eastern and Western gardening and agricultural history. The timeline is especially helpful because it notes many important events, people, gardens and discoveries, beginning with the appearance of photosynthesis on Earth up to the end of the 20th century. In addition, the fascinating anecdotal stories range from the amusing to the serious and cover a wide variety of intriguing facts, legends, people and places.

The chapters of the book on the 20th century are a treatise on the organic and natural gardening movement worldwide and the current concern over the role of biotechnology in agriculture, particularly the genetic engineering of food crops, popularly known as "Frankenfood." Given the publisher — Rodale — and its long support of organic and natural gardening and agriculture, this is not unexpected. In fact, the thoroughly documented information, though one-sided, deserves repeating at the beginning of a new century.

The historical timeline layout in the book is slightly confusing and difficult to follow at times, and the lack of information on 20th century gardens and garden designers is disappointing. However, as a quick reference with beautiful illustrations, this book is a welcome addition to the library of anyone interested in garden history, and an engaging read for any gardener.

— Dr. Jerry L. Garner, Garden Design Historian, Writer and Horticulture Consultant