books

The Prairie Spirit in Landscape GardeningThe Prairie Spirit in Landscape Gardening

Wilhelm Miller

Reprint of 1915 edition, with a new introduction by Christopher Vernon

ASLA Centennial Reprint Series

Published by University of Massachusetts Press in association with LALH

Cloth $34.95
2002

 

ISBN: 978-1-55849-329-2
To order: University of Massachusetts Press,
tel. 800-537-5487, fax 410-516-6998

In 1915, Wilhelm Miller (1869–1938), an influential author and editor, published The Prairie Spirit in Landscape Gardening, a profusely illustrated book that championed the “prairie style” of landscape gardening. It was the first book to address the question of a truly American style of landscape design and remains one of the most significant early treatises on that topic.

This handsome volume features several projects by Jens Jensen, a Danish immigrant whose ecologically based, conservation-oriented approach to park and residential design had a strong impact in Chicago and formed the foundation of the stylistic school Miller was promoting. The book also features photographs of O. C. Simonds’s designs for Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery and Midwestern landscapes by Walter Burley Griffin, Frank Lloyd Wright, Warren H. Manning, among others. Before and after images vividly demonstrate Miller’s taste for abundant use of hardy native plants in landscape design. His emphatic captions—”Away with Gaudy Foreigners and Artificial Varieties!” “Restore the Native Vegetation!”—leave little doubt about his aesthetic position.

Christopher Vernon’s new introduction links the prairie style to Wright and other architects of the Progressive Era, arguing that Wright’s use of prairie landscape elements actually preceded that by Jensen, Simonds, and their peers. Vernon shows how prairie imagery provided design ideas for some and also provided a label—prairie style—that helped promote naturalistic work generally. Architects, landscape architects, and garden enthusiasts will be intrigued by Vernon’s insights and inspired by Miller’s impassioned call to celebrate, replicate, and conserve the Midwestern landscape.

“Miller’s book provides a still-practical handbook for Midwestern gardens that lends a strong historical basis for linking such work today with its precedent.”—Robert E. Grese, Journal of the New England Garden History Society

CHRISTOPHER VERNON, an architect and author. He is also a coauthor of Carrere & Hastings, Architects (Acanthus Press, 2006) and the introduction to The Architecture of Charles A. Platt (Acanthus Reprint Series, 1998). Warren has taught design at the University of Michigan and the Institute for Classical Architecture, and in 1990-91 he was the town architect in Seaside, Florida.

The Prairie Spirit in Landscape Gardening is more valuable today than ever. What could be more appropriate than Miller’s call for us to design environmentally sound gardens that proudly display our native plants? Almost a century later we are just beginning to appreciate that genius of the place in which we live—the distinctly American landscape that Miller understood so well.”
—James Anthony van Sweden, FASLA