'What does it mean to garden in hard times and why might humans turn to the garden (as shelter, refuge, or productive space) under straitened conditions?' The essays in The Poetics and Politics of Gardening in Hard Times respond to this question by taking up different perspectives, both human and nonhuman, from within gardens of the twentieth and twenty-first century Anglophone world. Although the collection was published in 2019, its capacious thinking about austerity seemed to urge me to draw connections between the essays’ gardens and my own, and the hard time we are living through now as the world reels from the effects of COVID-19 and extended quarantining measures.
These essays offer frameworks to interrogating Wharton’s life and writings in several ways, including how she designed her garden at The Mount and the impact of gardening on her own writing process; they open up to exploring her garden writings in tandem with the ecological impacts of using European designs and nonnative plants in the American landscape and raise intriguing questions for Wharton studies: What were other outcomes of her professional relationship with her niece Beatrix Farrand (neé Jones), one of the first well-known American women landscape designers? What else may be gleaned about Wharton by investigating the social history and economics of the people involved with sourcing plants, and building and maintaining her gardens? The multidisciplinary approaches in this text suggest new ways to understand why humans garden, how they are changed by it, and how they write about their experiences to share with their communities.