Press Notes: New Gardening Title Digs Up the Roots of the American Lawn

May 01, 2013

Springtime is here and millions of Americans have turned their attention to tending lawns and gardens. A new, richly illustrated book, America’s Romance with the English Garden, by Thomas J. Mickey, tells the story of how the look of American lawns and gardens was shaped by nineteenth-century seed and nursery catalogs.

In his book, published this May by Ohio University Press, Mickey explains that Americans were practically “seduced” by the rich imagery and lush writing they found in catalogs. The seed companies and nurseries were selling more than seeds and plants, Mickey discovered during his research; they were also selling the way to plant and landscape. “Though the company owners knew French, Italian, Spanish, and Dutch gardens,” Mickey says, “the English garden, with its signature lawn, became the brand to sell seeds and plants in the nineteenth century.”

Readers of America’s Romance with the English Garden will learn how the lawn became such a prominent feature of the American landscape, how English garden writers inspired nineteenth-century seed company and nursery owners, how these companies taught Americans how to garden through their mass-marketed catalogs, magazines, and books, and how the obsession with new plant varieties became established.

— Jeff Kallet

Cover of 'America’s Romance with the English Garden'

Ohio University Press is the largest university press in Ohio, publishing 40–50 books annually on a variety of topics. These books carry the Ohio University name into the world, receiving national and international attention from leading scholarly journals, prominent review media, and prestigious award competitions.

Since December, Ohio University Press books and authors have appeared in the following media:

Kirkus Reviews (“An affecting memoir of life in small-town Kansas.”), London Review of Books (an “evocative narrative”), The American Historical Review (a “refreshingly bold and provocative study”), Dayton City Paper (“an excellent novel”), Annales de démographie historique, Publishers Weekly (an “animated narrative”), Words without Borders, (“Here is a full-throated romp through Soweto and Johannesburg”; and, for another book, “A gritty, dagga-infused tour through a Cape Town underworld”), Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Titles (“a fascinating exploration…. Highly recommended”), Booklist, Library Journal (“A fine, detailed work”), American Profile, Journal of American History (an “impressive volume”), Prairie Moon Nursery catalog, The Akron Beacon Journal, Studies in American Culture (“honors the complexity of Appalachian identity”), Journal of American Culture (“An important and revealing portrayal of Appalachian women”), Africa Is a Country blog, Cambridge Quarterly (“alive to the latest scholarship, and full of excitingly experimental research”), The Canton Repository, African Studies Review (“historical work at its best: empirically based, methodologically sophisticated, locally informed, broadly inclusive”), BizIndia, Global Asia (“Jung’s book deserves an accolade and acclamation from all those…deeply concerned with the fate of humanity and the sustainability of the earth”), Journal of Illinois History (an excellent account of the legal and social history of the region”), Journal of Urban History, Isis: An International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences, World of Music (a fascinating social and cultural history”), Comparativ, American Literary Scholarship, Columbus Monthly, Race & Class, Ohio Magazine, ForeWord Reviews (“belongs on the shelf of anyone with a sincere love for relevant, powerful theatre.”),, Tanzanian Affairs, The Patriot Ledger (Quincy, MA), H-NET/H-SAfrica (“marvelous and inventive”), Social History, Political Studies Review (“The argument is coherent and convincing”), Book News, H-NET/H-Environment (“the articles gathered in this volume offer a fresh and unusual perception of the region and its history”), Technology & Culture (“Scholars of environmental history would benefit from reading this lucidly written book”), Yearbook of German-American Studies, Illinois Audubon, Edible Ohio Valley, Midwest Book Review, Environment and History (“a compelling history”), Journal of Social History, Polish American Journal, Film-Philosophy Journal, Civil War Book Review,, Interdisciplinary Studies of Literature and the Environment, Civil War Book Review, Northwest Ohio History, Bulletin of Latin American Research (“an excellent work”), Charleston Gazette-Mail, Michigan Gardener, Histoire Sociale, The Writer, Ohioana Quarterly (“a book which can be enjoyed by literati, historians, and the general public”), The Barn Journal, Italian American Review, The Post, The Antarctic Sun, Research in African Literatures (“a groundbreaking intervention into African, postcolonial, literary, and environmental studies”), Kentucky Educational Television, Journal of Historical Geography.

Prizes and Awards

Transversal Rationality and Intercultural Texts: Essays in Phenomenology and Comparative Philosophy, by Hwa Yol Jung, won the 2012 Edwin Ballard Prize sponsored by the Center for Advanced Research in Phenomenology.

Barn Quilts and the American Quilt Trail Movement, by Suzi Parron and Donna Sue Groves, is a finalist in the ForeWord Book of the Year Award competition, in the Crafts & Hobbies category. The winner will be announced in late May at Book Expo America in New York City.

Asylum on the Hill: History of a Healing Landscape, by Katherine Ziff, is a finalist for the 2013 Ohioana Book Award in the “About Ohio” category. Ziff’s book, a psychiatric history of the former Athens Lunatic Asylum, was published in 2012. The author continues to attract crowds to events, most recently to an April Authors@Alden talk that drew over sixty people.

Recently published titles from Ohio University Press:

Standing Our Ground: Women, Environmental Justice, and the Fight to End Mountaintop Removal, by Joyce M. Barry. Barry examines how women’s efforts to end mountaintop removal coal mining in West Virginia have turned the issue into a national and global environmental concern.

The Gospel According to James and Other Plays, by Charles R. Smith. This reader’s edition collects five of the Ohio University playwright’s award-winning plays in one volume.

Trafficking in Slavery’s Wake: Law and the Experience of Women and Children in Africa, edited by Benjamin N. Lawrance and Richard L. Roberts. This important collection examines the ways trafficking in women and children has changed from the aftermath of the “end of slavery” in Africa from the late nineteenth century to the present.

Hero of the Angry Sky:The World War I Diary and Letters of David S. Ingalls, America’s First Naval Ace, edited by Geoffrey L. Rossano. A unique look into the U.S. Navy’s fledgling aviation program in the early 20th century, written by an Ohioan and a member of the famous “Millionaire’s Unit.”

Peacebuilding, Power, and Politics in Africa, edited by Devon Curtis and Gwinyayi A. Dzinesa. A collection of essays that present a critical reflection on peacebuilding efforts in Africa. The authors expose the tensions and contradictions in different clusters of peacebuilding activities, including peace negotiations; statebuilding; security sector governance; and disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration.

Invisible Agents: Spirits in a Central African History, by David Gordon. Invisible Agents shows how personal and deeply felt spiritual beliefs can inspire social movements and influence historical change. Focused on the south-central African country of Zambia.

A Room of His Own: A Literary-Cultural Study of Victorian Clubland, by Barbara Black. A look at the late 19th-century rise in London’s clubs and ideas about manliness, Englishness, class, society, and culture.

Dragging Wyatt Earp: A Personal History of Dodge City, by Robert Rebein. This collection of essays by Robert Rebein is a memoir of place centered in an iconic frontier town. In writing about his youth, as well as about the city’s past and present, Rebein contrasts the Old West with the New.

South x South: Poems from Antarctica, by Charles Hood. Winner of the annual Hollis Summers Poetry Prize, chosen by Jordan Davis, poetry editor of The Nation. Hood’s collection is centered on the history and culture of Antarctica, prompted by several months he spent there on a National Science Foundation fellowship.

The Conscript: A Novel of Libya’s Anticolonial War, by Gebreyesus Hailu, translated by Ghirmai Negash. In this short, powerful novel—translated by Negash, an Ohio University professor of English—a young Eritrean experiences an awakening while fighting in Libya for the Italians. First published in 1950, it is one of the earliest novels written in an African language.

Hollywood’s Africa after 1994, edited by MaryEllen Higgins. A collection of essays investigates Hollywood’s film legacy in the postapartheid era and contemplates what has changed in the West’s representations of Africa.

African Video Movies and Global Desires: A Ghanaian History, by Carmela Garritano. The first full-length scholarly study of Ghana’s commercial video industry draws on over ten years of archival and ethnographic research conducted in Ghana.

Illinois’s War: The Civil War in Documents, edited by Mark Hubbard. Part of Ohio University Press’s series, The Civil War in the Great Interior, this volume gathers period documents—“varied and unfailingly interesting” according to one reader—from this important Civil War state.

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