Stalking the Wild Amaranth: Gardening in the Age of Extinction

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9780805044157: Stalking the Wild Amaranth: Gardening in the Age of Extinction

An important horticultural memoir articulating a new landscape art that's both environmentally sensitive and rich in creativity.

Janet Marinelli left her comfortable city garden to join a botanist colleague in search of the rare Seabeach Amaranth--one of our many native species that is in danger of extinction. The result of the ensuing seven-year odyssey, Stalking the Wild Amaranth is a work of science and a work of art. Marinelli tells the story of her discovery that contemporary gardening is out of sync with theories evolving on the frontiers of science and philosophy. She also tells of her quest for a new garden art that nurtures a greater richness and variety of earthly life. Inspired by the legacy of Henry David Thoreau, Marinelli bls history, horticulture, erudition, and personal insight into a narrative that ponders the relationship between humankind and nature. She fleshes out a vision for a new, ecologically wise landscape art, disagreeing ultimately with those who insist that growing native plants is the only way to recover our environmental equilibrium. Gardeners, she writes, should be free to experiment, to let our imaginations run wild, to learn how to be the creators of biodiversity as well as the preservers and restorers.

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Review:

It comes as no surprise to anyone that human society has had a pernicious effect on native plant life. What is surprising is that plants fall prey not only to the mechanical effects of suburban expansion, but also to such seemingly harmless processes as the introduction of nonnative rivals to their eco-regions. Oddly, in the case of the seabeach amaranth, it was the well-meaning efforts of various New Jersey and Long Island waterfront communities to curtail beach erosion that fragmented this normally hardy plant's habitat, leaving it unable to propagate. It is now, for all practical purposes, extinct. Throughout North America, approximately one-third of native plant species are considered endangered.

Janet Marinelli's compelling history of the American landscape examines everything from the popular obsession with lawns to the sex life of plants. For example, much of the decline in plant diversity can be traced to the rise of asexual clones--one ubiquitous example is the Delicious apple--exacerbated by the American fondness for the neatly clipped garden, which discourages open pollination of the few remaining native plants. But Marinelli goes much deeper than mere statements of fact, using garden design as a metaphor that reveals changing social philosophies, from rationalist to romantic and back again, and sweeping Darwin, Einstein, Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Gaia hypothesis into the mix. The latter half of the book concentrates on the past few decades of gardening and what changes in techniques and style have brought to the larger ecological communities. Never have the possible implications of the simple act of planting been made quite so entertaining.

From the Back Cover:

Advance Praise for Stalking the Wild Amaranth

"Not since Voltaire has anyone so eloquently proclaimed the wisdom and the necessity of cultivating our own gardens. Without exaggeration, herein lie the secrets of saving the world. And the greatest surprise is to find that so many of the truths have been at our fingertips all along." -- Roger Swain, science editor of Horticulture magazine and host of PBS's "Victory Garden"

"For centuries gardening was taught and practiced for the subjugation of nature. Today we are so conscious of crowding out native species that a new garden ethic is emerging -- one in concert with nature. Janet Marinelli's provocative book gives us a new view and the tools to further this revolution." -- Rosalind Creasy, author of The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping

"Janet Marinelli is a masterful storyteller. From ancient pleasure gardens, Versailles and Sissinghurst, to the cutting edge of landscape restoration, she creates an engaging and entertaining tale of horticulture and ecology through time and place. As we begin the new millennium, she illuminates the dilemmas, opportunities, and responsibilities we face as architects and tenders of the global garden." -- C. Colston Burrell, ecological designer and author of A Gardener's Encyclopedia of Wildflowers

"I loved Stalking the Wild Amaranth -- couldn't decide whether to ration myself to one chapter per day or race through nonstop. You'll know exactly why I took the path of least resistance as soon as you start reading Janet Marinelli's newest book. With her usual candor and purity of spirit, she has convinced me that my new garden in central Iowa can be as Old World formal as I might like and still be ecologically wise." -- Elvin McDonald, garden editor of Traditional Home magazine

"In Stalking the Wild Amaranth, Janet Marinelli extends the horizons for gardeners and their gardens to provide them with a clearer vision of these vital locations where, in her own words, '...we nurture nature as nature nurtures us...' Threads of garden history, horticulture, and ecology are woven into a highly readable narrative that gives both guidance and hope for a fresh approach to gardening that goes beyond mere aesthetics to our interaction with gardens as essential ecosystems. The result is a book which challenges the reader to be not only a gardener, but an informed participant in the living landscape." -- Henry W. Art, Samuel Fessenden Clark Professor of Biology at Williams College and author of A Garden of Wildflowers: 101 Native Species and How to Grow Them

"In Stalking the Wild Amaranth, Janet Marinelli enlightens and delights us with discourse on our gardening past. More importantly, she gives us nurturing food for thought about how as people who grow things we might become more effective caretakers of all that is green and growing in the global landscape that is our collective garden." -- Craig Tufts, director of the National Wildlife Federation's Backyard Habitat program and author of Backyard Naturalist

"Marinelli's carefully collected information and thoughtful analysis should be given to nature-deprived suburbia all over America!" -- Lorrie Otto, environmental consultant and teacher/naturalist

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Janet Marinelli, Stephen K-M. Tim (Drawings)
Published by Henry Holt and Company, Inc. (1998)
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Marinelli, Janet
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