Noah’s Garden

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

How should Americans landscape their quarter-acre suburban lots? Should we try to create miniature English estates, with cool seasongrasses and exotic ornamentals, or should we try to restore some ofthe original American habitat of mixed woodlands, fields, andwetlands? In NOAH’S GARDEN, Sarah Stein describes her conversionfrom gardener to ecologist during a decade of intensive gardeningon her six acres of country land in Westchester County. Steingradually discovered that the conventional suburban gardeningfashions turned her land into an attractive but sterile environmentwhich discouraged wildlife and demanded intensive care.

In her reeducation as a gardener, Stein let her lawn lapse backinto meadow and began to replace exotic ornamentals with hardynative trees and shrubs. She tried to create a more diversenatural habitat that would support a greater variety of wildlife. She tried to select the native plants best suited to her localenvironment. She proposes landscape designs for creating woodlots,hedgerows, meadows, ponds, and wetlands in place of the sterilelawns and monotonous landscape plantings of suburban America. Sheurges that we plant fruiting shrubs and native trees, and replacelawn turf with hardy meadow grasses. These miniature backyardecosystems might gradually create a mosaic of ecologically diversehabitats that would help to protect threatened species. Her visionof a future suburbia is one of fewer lawns and more woods,thickets, paths, and meadows. Stein’s mixed landscape would helpto preserve native flora and fauna by restoring originalhabitats.