“I know of no book about gardens that comes close to the beauty of Sharon White’s Vanished Gardens. Her lyrical prose moves effortlessly through the centuries, through the stories and histories of people and flowers, of rivers and plants. Stunning work.”
— Lisa Couturier, author of
The Hopes of Snakes &
Other Tales from the Urban
The Cabin, Moraine Park
I wash my body at the lip
of an alabaster sink
worn like a shell
scoop water drawn from a marshy
meadow below us
where elk graze spring grass
and the river shimmers at dawn,
no memory of where it¹s
come from, or where
it¹s going, a long cold channel of
rushing somewhere toward a sea.
My hands cup the water, warmed
on the stove
I splash it quickly on my shoulders,
on my throat.
Through the open window morning
sifts itself down from
the arched, old ceiling
of the sky,
polishing the sink with light.
Appalachia, Summer/Fall 2008
Finding Nature in Philadelphia
New to living and gardening in Philadelphia, Sharon White begins a journey through the landscape of the city, past and present, in Vanished Gardens. In prose now as precise and considered as the paths in a parterre, now as flowing and lyrical as an Olmsted vista, White explores Philadelphia’s gardens as a part of the city’s ecosystem and animates the lives of individual gardeners and naturalists working in the area around her home.In one section of the book, White tours the gardens of colonial botanist John Bartram; his wife, Ann; and their son, writer and naturalist William. Other chapters focus on Deborah Logan, who kept a record of her life on a large farm in the late eighteenth century, and Mary Gibson Henry, twentieth-century botanist, plant collector, and namesake of the lily Hymenocallis henryae. Throughout White weaves passages from diaries, letters, and memoirs from significant Philadephia gardeners into her own striking prose, transforming each place she examines into a palimpsest of the underlying earth and the human landscapes layered over it.
White gives a surprising portrait of the resilience and richness of the natural world in Philadelphia and of the ways that gardening can connect nature to urban space. She shows that although gardens may vanish forever, the meaning and solace inherent in the act of gardening is always waiting to be discovered anew.
From The University of Georgia Press:
A volume in the series Association of Writers and Writing Programs Award for Creative Nonfiction