'Encourage the creepers.' This was the American garden designer Charles Platt's advice on low-maintenance lawncare to his client William Gwinn Mather, president of the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company, in 1933, at the height of the Depression, when even plutocrats felt the need to tighten their belts. Or adjust their braces, or whatever it is that plutocrats do. 'Encourage the creepers,' he wrote, 'especially the nearly evergreens, such as the Speedwells or Veronicas, Bugle, Creeping Dandelion, English Daisy … all of which can be walked on comfortably … Then keep a limited area near the terrace in perfect grass.' In the event the lawn at Mather's house – Gwinn, near Cleveland – was saved and his library sold. Evidently, denuded bookshelves were preferable to a dandelion-filled lawn.
One of the strengths of this vast tome by Robin Karson is the way she relates the making of gardens in America during the so-called 'country place era' of 1900 to 1939 to the financial status and business vicissitudes of the clients who paid for them.