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Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime

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Defiant Gardens

Making Gardens in Wartime


Kenneth I. Helphand




Hardcover, $34.95

ISBN 1-59534-021-1


7 x 10, 320 pages

95 B&W photos

May 2006


Why is it that in the midst of a war, one can still find gardens? Wartime gardens are dramatic examples of what landscape architect Kenneth Helphand calls defiant gardens—gardens created in extreme social, political, economic, or cultural conditions.


Illustrated with ninety-five compelling archival photographs and illustrations, some from the Gulf Wars, this remarkable book examines gardens of war in the twentieth century—a period of the deadliest wars in human history—including gardens soldiers built inside and behind the trenches in World War I; gardens built in the Warsaw and other ghettos under the Nazis during World War II; gardens in the POW and civilian internment camps of both world wars; and gardens created by Japanese Americans held at U.S. internment camps during World War II.


Proving that gardens are far more than peaceful respites from the outside world, Defiant Gardens is a thought-provoking analysis of why people build and work in gardens. Helphand portrays the dramatic range of circumstances in which people have created gardens—as a means of nourishment, as a pursuit of beauty, and as an expression of hope. Informative and inspirational, this rich history of gardens during wartime documents how gardens have humanized landscapes and experience, even under the most dire conditions.


Defiant Gardens brings to light a history that has never been studied and moving stories never before told.


Click here to hear Kenneth Helphand interviewed by Ketzel Levine on NPR's Morning Edition, Memorial Day, May 29, 2006


Click here to hear Helphand interviewed by Jim Fleming on Wisconsin Public Radio's To the Best of Our Knowledge, July 9, 2006


Click here to hear Helphand interviewed by Michael Krasny on Northern California Public Broadcasting's Forum (KQED, San Fransciso), August 10, 2006


Praise for the book


“A stunning look at heroic efforts to create beauty, order and even life-sustaining food in the midst of war.”

—Marjorie David, Chicago Tribune


“The many gardeners brought to life in this book aren't passive planters of a casual flat of petunias. Brave conveyers of hope, they impose a sense of order in the midst of chaos, be it only one tiny leaf poking up in a crack of dirt in the barren landscape of no-man's-land.”

—Patti Ross, San Antonio Express-News


“Anyone doubting the therapeutic power of nature need only read Kenneth Helphand's new book.”

—Jesse Greenspan, Audubon Magazine


“Helphand puts in historical context the tremendous importance of wartime gardening efforts, spiritually and psychologically. As he illustrates (often in heart-breaking detail), gardens sustained both body and soul of those faced with imprisonment and destruction.”

—Katie Schneider, The Oregonian


“Gardens that ignored the rules of nature and gardeners who challenged the laws of man are vitally united in Helphand's seminal and revelatory study of life during some of the most lethal conflicts of the twentieth century.”

—Carol Haggas, Booklist (starred review)




Unless otherwise indicated, each event includes a lecture, visual presentation, and book signing.


November 5, 2006: two talks, 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., North Carolina Arboretum, Asheville, North Carolina


November 8, 2006: 7-9 p.m., School of the Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, Illinois


November 9, 2006: 12:00 p.m., Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, Illinois


November 11, 2006: 1:30 p.m., Boerner Botanical Gardens, Hales Corners, Wisconsin


November 13, 2006: 7:00 p.m., Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver, Colorado


January 13, 2007: 5-8:30 p.m.Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania


February 1, 2007: Lloyd Library and Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio


February 3, 2007: Civic Garden Center of Greater Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio


February 15, 2007: Harlow Whittemore Lecture, School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan


February 28, 2007: Wave Hill Horticultural Lecture Series, New York School of Interior Design, New York, New York


March 1, 2007: Department of Landscape Architecture, Rutgers University, Cook/Douglass Campus, New Brunswick, New Jersey


March 29, 2007: Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Amherst, Massachusetts


April 11, 2007: Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C.


About the Author


Kenneth I. Helphand is the author of Colorado: Visions of an American Landscape, Dreaming Gardens: Landscape Architecture and the Making of Modern Israel, and Yard Street Park: The Design of Suburban Open Space (coauthored with Cynthia Girling). He is a professor of landscape architecture at the University of Oregon in Eugene.



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