As a budding garden writer, I must share with you one of my favorite authors - Edith Wharton.

Edith Wharton was a famous woman of letters in the 19th century when she went to Italy and wrote her seminal, turn of the century  Italian Villas and Gardens. The writing is classic garden literature.

First serialized in the popular 'The Century Magazine' and then released in book form in 1904, Italian Villas and Their Gardens is Wharton's description of her visits to 75 different villas. It combines Wharton's flowing prose, her keen intellect and eye and Maxfield Parrish's striking and nuanced color  illustrations.

What a combination for such a wonderful topic!

All the Parrish illustrations shown here are from a fabulous website called 100 years of Illustration and Design by Paul Giambarba (click here).

The book was a genuine collaborative effort between the two. Each traveled to Italy to gather material for the project and then they met later in The Mount, Wharton's home in Lenox, Massachusetts, to compare notes and to discuss the themes of the book. 

The Parrish illustrations of these legendary Italian villa gardens are typically dreamy and  look the stuff of fairy tales.

The book is a jewel of garden writing and design analysis. It is, as a reviewer wrote in the Amazon book review, "a coffee table book, a piece of art and a conversation piece all in one."

Here is an excerpt from the book that exemplifies Wharton's skillful prose and eye:

“The inherent beauty of the garden lies in the grouping of its parts - in the converging lines of its long ilex-walks, the alteration of sunny open spaces with cool woodland shade, the proportion between terrace and bowling green, or between the height of a wall and width of a path.

None of these details was negligible to the landscape architect of the Renaissance: he considered the distribution of shade and sunlight, of straight lines of masonry and rippled lines of foliage, as carefully as he weighed the relation of his whole composition to the scene about it.”

(Edith Wharton, Italian Villas and Their Gardens, 1904

Wow - I couldn't have it better myself....(smile)...The Original 1904 edition has been reprinted by Rizzoli Publishers (May, 2008). John Dixon Hunt (Introduction) ....It is a must for any garden writer/designer/aficionado...


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