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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Knowledgebase record #88

Greenscapes: Olmsted's Pacific Northwest. by Joan Hockaday, 2009

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson
Review date: 2009-10-01

John Charles Olmsted made numerous visits to the Pacific Northwest from 1903-1911. This nephew of Frederick Law Olmsted was himself a highly regarded landscape architect and noted for his attention to fine detail. The chronicle of his many projects in the region is written with this same, careful attention to detail by Joan Hockaday in "Greenscapes: Olmsted's Pacific Northwest."

Olmsted was a prolific writer, both in his professional records and in his correspondence (5,000 private letters survive), especially his daily letters to his wife Sophia and their daughters at home in Brookline, Massachusetts. Hockaday uses this wealth of sources to create a book that works on several levels: as a history of a important time in the development of our region, as a biography of a skilled landscape architect working in the shadow of his more famous uncle, and as a glimpse of a by-gone era through garden design.

While his work took him from Vancouver Island to the University of Idaho and south to Corvallis, much the book's focus is on Seattle, where he spent some 300 days during those nine years. Hockaday convincingly argues that Olmsted is responsible for much of what now defines the city, especially with the park system, Lake Washington Boulevard, the University of Washington campus (including Rainier Vista), and many private residences.

Excerpted from the Fall 2009 Arboretum Bulletin.

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