The View from Federal Twist

The View from Federal Twist: A New Way of Thinking About Gardens, Nature and Ourselves by James Golden

£40 │ ISBN: 9781999734572 │ 28th October 2021

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Federal Twist is set on a ridge above the Delaware River in western New Jersey, USA. It is a naturalistic garden that has loose boundaries and integrates closely with the natural world that surrounds it. It has no utilitarian or leisure uses (no play areas, swimming pools or outdoor dining) and the site is not an obvious choice for a garden (heavy clay soil, poorly drained: quick death for any plants not ecologically suited to it).

The physical garden, its plants and its features, is of course an appealing and pleasant place to be but Federal Twist’s real charm and significance lie in its intangible aspects: its changing qualities and views, the moods and emotions it evokes, and its distinctive character and sense of place. Monty Don commented after his visit, “it made me rethink what a garden can be and do.”

This book charts the author’s journey in making such a garden. How he made a conscious decision not to “improve the land”, planted large, competitive plants into rough grass, experimented with seeding to develop sustainable plant communities. And how he worked with light to provoke certain moods and allowed the energy of the place, chance and randomness to have its say.

Part experimental horticulturist and part philosopher, James Golden has written an important book for naturalistic and ecological gardeners and anyone interested in exploring the relationship between gardens, nature and ourselves.

Read the reviews:

“Golden’s garden is very much magic through its naturalness.” Rakes Progress

“This is the story of a gardener and a garden growing and developing together to create a modern American horticultural masterpiece.” Paddy Tobin, Irish Garden Plant Society

“Even after over 50 years of gardening and visiting gardens, it made me rethink what a garden can be and do.” Monty Don

“What a truly 21st-century garden this is.” Noel Kingsbury

“More than magic was needed to garden on this challenging site; alchemy, or turning a leaden site golden, was what he accomplished.” Christopher Woods

“The entire garden flows out of a profound acceptance of what exists as a way of creating something utterly new and expressive.” Thomas Rainer and Claudia West

“Thoughtful, well written and finely produced, this description of the creation of backwoods plot offers far more than the usual ‘we made a garden’ story.” Gardens Illustrated  

“…a remarkable meditation on the creation of a curiously named garden in the wilds of western New Jersey” Tim Richardson, The Literary Review 

“Books have a power to move. To tears, to joy, to despair. Sometimes they transport you to another place. James Golden takes you by the hand and leads you through the garden he’s created, and it’s one of the most beautiful, inspiring journeys you’ll ever take.” Karen Gimson, Bramble Garden Blog 

“This is an important book for gardening and gardeners.  You might just think it is a nice walk around a beautiful garden but it is much more than that.  It is intelligent and thought provoking.  A book to read more than once and to make us think again and again. Just buy it and read it – you will not regret it.” Alison Levey, Blackberry Garden Blog 

“Here is an important book to provoke and stimulate all of us into asking questions about our relationship with our gardens and landscape and how we use it. Here too, is a book for naturalistic and ecological gardeners and anyone interested in exploring the relationship between gardens, nature and themselves.” The Reckless Gardener 

“The View from Federal Twist … a digest of the most forward-reaching garden ideas of our time.” Kendra Wilson, Gardenista 

“A fascinating, thought-provoking book that charts the author’s creation of his garden in north-east America. Be inspired by his choice of planting for heavy clay soil and the photography that captures the garden’s naturalistic beauty.” Garden Answers

“It is an immersive experience that produces feeling and mood, an ecological garden that works on the imagination” Susie White, Garden Design Journal

“A recurring theme is the idea of the garden existing on the edge of chaos. In that sense, this book is very much of its time.” Telegraph

“A deeply thoughtful, lyrical meditation on the challenges of creating a garden in harmony with the natural world and the lessons that it teaches us, Golden’s love for the land and the joy that it brings him sings out from its pages.” Fionnuala Fallon, The Irish Times

Selected Interviews:

Dig Delve – The View From Federal Twist