Review: Great Gardens of the Berkshires
Let me begin with a disclosure: I’ve known Virginia Small for more than a decade, and in that time we have collaborated and brainstormed on everything from garden designs to magazine articles. Too bad I missed the boat working with her on “Great Gardens of the Berkshires” (Down East, hardcover, $35). Instead, Virginia, a former senior editor at Fine Gardening magazine, and ace garden lensman Rich Pomerantz teamed up to produce this paean to 17 great gardens clinging to the rocky spine of the Berkshires. Public gardens such as incomparable Naumkeag and The Mount are featured, as are private gardens, including those of Lee Link, Jack Hyland and Larry Wente, and Honey Sharp. Virginia’s a poet, so her prose is crisp, sharp, and evocative, but what distinguishes Great Gardens of the Berkshires from so many coffee-tablesque great garden books is that this one is not merely an exercise in lyrical praise-giving. Instead, it’s chock full of news-you-can-use concepts such as how these gardens actually evolved, what sites served the owners as sources of inspiration, and what design strategies were employed in creating these distinctive sites. Many of those valuable insights are distilled in boxed featurettes, so they can readily be referred to again and again. Last but not least, Rich Pomerantz’s fine photographs are inspiring enough to stand on their own, but their careful integration with the text makes them especially informative as well.