In recent years, vegetable gardening has made a comeback as a popular pastime in America. Yet, gardeners are creating vegetable gardens with a difference; they are intended to be pleasing to the eye as well as a source for fresh produce. In an effort to beautify traditional vegetable gardens, landscape architects and amateur gardeners are finding inspiration in the elaborate European vegetable gardens of the seventeenth century. Feast Your Eyes examines the historical antecedents of this modern movement as well as the changing perceptions of the beauty of vegetable gardens over time and among different cultures. Generously illustrated with over one hundred historical and contemporary photographs and artwork highlighting material from the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Gardens, this book provides a fascinating and wide-ranging discussion of such topics as the vegetable garden at Versailles, Ming dynasty vegetable gardens, the war gardens of World War I, World War II victory gardens—including those of the Japanese American internees—and vegetable still lifes.
As the boundary between vegetable garden and flower garden has become blurred, the same is true for vegetables. Horticulturists have developed popular garden ornamentals from kale, chili peppers, sweet potato, and eggplant. Pennington provides "biographies" of these vegetables and describes new varieties that are being developed for their aesthetic qualities. She shows how this is not a uniquely modern phenomenon but is rooted in the introduction of exotic vegetables to Europe starting as early as the thirteenth century.
Published in association with Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service
Chapter One: Of Cabbages and Kings: Quintinie and the Baroque Vegetable Garden
Chapter Two: Ming Gardens of the Soul
Chapter Three: Banishing the Vegetable Garden from the Landscape
Chapter Four: A Vegetable Garden Conundrum: The Chimneys
Chapter Five: The Vegetable Still Life
Chapter Six: Vegetable Garden Victorious
Chapter Seven: The Glorious Vegetable Garden
Chapter Eight: Feast or Fancy: The Ornamental Vegetable
Susan J. Pennington was Enid A. Haupt Fellow in Horticulture at the Smithsonian Institution from 1999 to 2001. She is curator of the second exhibition in the Smithsonian's American Garden Legacy series and has appeared on PBS's The Victory Garden.
"Using humble materials, Pennington tells a terrific story of the rise and fall of ornamental vegetable gardening between the seventeenth and the nineteenth centuries, and its comeback in the twentieth. The allure of her book is in its seamless lamination of scholarship and lucid narrative. The cast of supporting characters is made up of both familiar figures (Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Pope, etc.) and obscure heroes of horticulture and landscape architecture. Captivating and inspiring, this book will appeal to anyone who ever tried to grow something and eat it."—Dean MacCannell, author of The Tourist