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  • 1 Longwood Graduate Fellow 2012 University of Delaware Newark, DE

A Guide to Smithsonian Gardens. Carole Ottesen. 2011. Smithsonian Books. P.O. Box 37012, MRC 513, Washington, DC 20013-7012. 160 pages, with illustrations, US $14.95. Softcover. ISBN 978-1-58834-300-0

In the first publication highlighting the Smithsonian gardens, Carole Ottesen provides a poignant exploration of the horticultural collections along the National Mall in Washington, DC. Ottesen's insightful descriptions of the gardens constitute a well-rounded, readable analysis of the landscape surrounding some of our nation's most storied museums. In this book, the beautiful horticultural displays and collections prove to be as splendid as the materials indoors.

A Guide to Smithsonian Gardens combines a reverence for history and horticulture. It traces the gardens’ evolution from the beginning in 1835, when British scientist James Smithson left his estate to the people of the United States to create an institution for the increase and diffusion of knowledge. The historical narrative continues throughout the book and provides a sense of purpose and direction to the writings. Ottesen praises the key personalities and plant specimens characterizing the gardens with equal enthusiasm. For example, one can learn about how the Hirshhorn Museum came into existence while admiring striking color images of Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula’ at the Sculpture Garden. These vignettes carry throughout the book and combine nicely with the gorgeous images of the gardens throughout the year.

The book is organized by site, with each chapter illuminating a different garden along the Mall. The structure and size of the publication makes it perfect to carry with you on your next trip to Washington while venturing between gardens. It conveniently includes a map of the Mall in the front and back sleeve to help you along your way. Furthermore, at $14.95, this book is a great deal for the level of detail included in the 160 pages. The chapters include inset information describing everything from integrated pest management practices at the Katherine Dulin Folger Rose Garden to the life cycle of a monarch butterfly at the Butterfly Habitat Garden. Other chapters review a zoo display, native American landscape, French-inspired royal parterre, and a victory garden, to name a few.

Amateur and professional garden enthusiasts can enjoy this book. It provides unique plant combinations and a range of design ideas to inspire the masses. The stories will keep you reading, while the illustrations provide ideas for your next garden project.

Ashby LeavellLongwood Graduate Fellow 2012 University of Delaware Newark, DE

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