Design in the Little GardenDesign in the Little Garden

Fletcher Steele

Reprint of the 1924 edition, with a new introduction by Robin Karson

Published by LALH/Distributed by University of Massachusetts Press

Fall 2011

ISBN: 978-1-55849-907-2
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Among the many books published about garden design, few manage to get at so many vital aspects of the topic so pungently as Fletcher Steele’s Design in the Little Garden. First published in 1924, and reissued here with a new introduction by Robin Karson, the book captures the sense of possibility that Steele and his landscape architectural colleagues felt as the nation’s population swelled and the middle class spilled out of the cities into new suburbs.

One of the foremost landscape designers of the early twentieth century, Steele published frequently in both popular and professional magazines, on topics that ranged from horticulture to conservation, civic improvement, modernism, and space composition. In this slim volume, he tackles the challenges of designing the residential landscape, while also addressing architectural and planning issues and recommending several innovative strategies for suburban house design.

Steele organized his book for clarity and ease of use. Brief chapters focus on both process (“Buying Land”) and features (“The Flower Garden,” “Rock, Wild, and Wall Gardens,” “Grading, Steps, Walks,” “Toolhouse, Cold Frames,” etc.). In the course of guiding an imaginary couple through the exercise of buying a new home and designing, planting, and maintaining the surrounding yard, he gives life to the guiding principles of cohesion and utility.

Written in an engaging voice, with a sharp wit sometimes tempered by affectionate exasperation, Design in the Little Garden provides a concise summary of Steele’s design principles and a delightful read for anyone interested in garden design at any scale.

ROBIN KARSON is a landscape historian and the founder and director of the Library of American Landscape History. She has written several books about American landscape architecture, including  A Genius for Place: American Landscapes of the Country Place Era (University of Massachusetts Press in association with LALH, 2007)Fletcher Steele, Landscape Architect (Sagapress,1989; University of Massachusetts Press in association with LALH, 2005), and The Muses of Gwinn (Sagapress, 1985). She also is the coeditor of Pioneers of American Landscape Design (McGraw-Hill, 2000).  Karson’s books have received two Honor Awards from the ASLA, an American Horticultural Society Book Award, and a J. B. Jackson Award from the Foundation for Landscape Studies.

Download the Introduction