Garden Diary - June 2022

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The View from Federal Twist
A New Way of Thinking About Gardens, Nature and Ourselves
by James Golden
a book review
Monday, 27 June 2022

I garden. It is my vocation and avocation. My friends are gardeners, to one extent or another. I delight in visiting the gardens of those nearby. We talk about each others gardens. Delightful conversations but they are fragments, snippets, a glimpse of how the gardens began, how they evolved over time. I met James perhaps a decade ago, first visiting with a garden club. As our friendship developed I was invited back, not just at summer's lush display but in autumn and winter too. But since the garden at Federal Twist is private, not public, this is a limited privilege.

image copyright Claire Takacs

Now, with "The View From Federal Twist, A New Way of Thinking About Gardens, Nature, and Ourselves" James Golden offers a nuanced explanation of how his garden came to be the site specific landscape rich in native plants it is today.

image James Golden

Where to begin . . . Why make a garden, where to make a garden, how does the land / landscape make its own demands and constraints, a (very) brief mention of the area's history. The house came first, and the eventually-to-become-a-garden outdoors was an overgrown, wet clay soil, visited by deer. Hardly a blank slate. Moving in on the technical beginning of the new year, winter's snow created a watch and wait situation. With spring's arrival 70 field cedars, Juniperus virginianus, were removed to create a glade, an opening for sunlight, potential for the garden to come.

But a garden, an evocative garden, is more than the sticks and bones of plants and stones. It includes the genius loci, the spirit of place. James explores how he came to appreciate and understand the soul of the garden at Federal Twist. A blog, View From Federal Twist brought connection with other gardeners, landscape architects, garden designers - the array of other people with similar interests. He visited other, established, ecologically focused gardens. Plants were added to see what would survive. A path, mown parallel to the house, was the first in what became the trails that lead from here to there and around about. Others followed.

Multiple images that James has taken at various seasons beautifully display the structural effects provided by bold plants whether in leaf, in flower, in seed, or in winter's bare bones.


A garden has plants and it also requires the hand of the gardener. James lucidly discusses the paths (and bought a drone that provides overhead views), stone walls, water features, chairs (does a gardener really have time to sit? I wonder.)

Of course the ever changing habitat of a garden relies on the plants that fill it, offering a seasonal variation as plants grow, perform, seed about, sometimes die. The fifth chapter, Planting the garden, offers luscious images of everything from plants emerging in the spring, successional waves of bloom, autumn color from foliage and fruit, winter's snow.

The View From Federal Twist allows the reader to view, from a comfortable chair, the garden at all seasons. To time travel from its beginning (in 2004/5) to follow its evolution - and the evolution of James Golden as the garden had its influence on him. Read, enjoy, and the perhaps The View From Federal Twist might influence you.

On Wednesday, June 29, 2022 James will present an on-line class
for the New York Botanical Garden adult education department
from 11:00am - 12:00pm Session Number: 224LAN810O
Non-Member: $29 / Member: $25 Registration is now open.
Please visit nybg.org/adulted or call 718.817.8720 to register

Using gorgeous images from his newly released book, The View From Federal Twist, featuring his New Jersey home garden, James Golden shares how to design for a garden's intangible aspects, its atmosphere, mood, ecology, and character of place.

The View From Federal Twist:
A New Way of Thinking About Gardens, Nature and Ourselves
Hardcover, UK 28 October 2021 / USA on 1 March 2022
Filbert Press, ISBN: 978-1-9997345-7-2 USA $55

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

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