Twenty-five years ago Mitchell cut down a 1 1/2-acre stand of 75-year-old white pines and planted a garden in their place. An Eden of Sorts is a history of the plants and animals that lived on the tract over the next decades, including two generations of half-wild children What started out as a plot with no more that five or six flowering plants and shrubs, over the years grew into more than a thousand species of plants and animals inhabiting the property. This is a paradoxical yet hopeful narrative of what can happen to a plot of land when it is properly managed.
Lushly illustrated by the garden painter Suzan Osborn, An Eden of Sorts is a literal natural history, the story of Mitchell’s thirty-year experiment and the extended families of living things on his land, including two generations of children who played out their roles on the stage of this natural theater. It is, essentially, an argument in favor of messy gardens. If all the sterile, lawn-dominated yards of America were planted in a similar way, the biodiversity of suburbia could be increased dramatically.
John Hanson Mitchell is the editor of Massachusetts Audubon’s Sanctuary magazine, and the author of ten other books, including the Scratch Flat Chronicles, a series that started with Ceremonial Time and focuses on a single square mile of land in Eastern Massachusetts. An Eden of Sorts is the latest in that series.