Cover image for Notes from Madoo : making a garden in the Hamptons
Notes from Madoo : making a garden in the Hamptons
Dash, Robert.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston, MA : Houghton Mifflin, 2000.
Physical Description:
xi, 242 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
Essays extracted from the author's biweekly gardening columns in the East Hampton star.

"A Frances Tenenbaum book."
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
SB453.2.N7 D37 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Madoo is an artist's unusual and beautiful garden at the far end of Long Island. Described in the New York Times as "Robert Dash's ever-changing masterpiece," it has been pictured in many books and magazines and visited by lovers of gardens from this country and abroad.
Now the author/artist/gardener describes his making of Madoo in a book that is as charming and entertaining as it is enlightening. Dash's artist's sense --or senses -- of the movement of air and the effects of light and color suffuse all his writings, and show us new ways to look at our own gardens.
As with Henry Mitchell's books, one learns more from reading these essays than from a dozen how-to books. And whether we like to make gardens or simply to look at them, Dash has given us a book to keep by the bedside, where we can read and reread our favorite pieces ("Fairies"? "Manuring"? "The Name of the Rose"? "The Garden Tour"? Too many to list!) over and over again.

Author Notes

Robert Dash writes, lectures, and is on the governing boards of several gardening societies. He is a founding patron of the Garden Conservancy and is the founder and president of the Madoo Conservancy (his own gardens, which he opens to the public from May through September on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons). He writes a biweekly column on gardening for the East Hampton Star, He lives in Sagaponack, New York

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Writing as expressively as he paints, artist Robert Dash recounts the making of Madoo, his Long Island garden. The essays collected here, which were taken from gardening columns written for the East Hampton Star, serve to illuminate Madoo's much photographed landscape in vivid detail. And following in the best tradition of garden writing, Dash's well-crafted words extend to a range of appealing themes that other gardeners will relish--favored plants, special achievements, losses from storms, and the like. Refreshingly opinionated and astutely observant, Dash can also be delightfully comic. A gardener of considerable renown, Dash promises stimulating companionship when the garden is at rest. --Alice Joyce

Publisher's Weekly Review

Extracted from the author's gardening columns in the East Hampton Star, these short, exuberant essays tell of 1.98 acres on the far eastern end of Long Island, where Dash has made a garden he calls Madoo, "My Dove" in an old Scots dialect. Dash is a painter, and it shows in every line as he takes readers through a year in a garden characterized by "continuous involvement with the patterns of abstract expressionism." There are descriptions of his favorite plants, bits of garden history, some gardening advice (suited mainly to his area of Long Island) and, in pieces on garden fairies and the tribulations of Adam and Eve in Eden, a few amazing flights of fancy. Opinionated and eccentric, Dash doesn't mince words about his dislikes--the loss of a neighboring field to a housing development, weather forecasters, forsythia ("an absolute ass of a color")--and he freely admits that the hues of his garden's fences would "make indoor eyeballs wince." Dash's lush prose is best taken in small doses, like an over-rich dessert, but he has a gift for evoking what he sees, as when he speaks of wild daisies "making marvelous stops and explosions throughout the garden and in the fields." His observations about the after-colors of winter's withered perennials, the "smell of nameless turnings in the woods" and the taste of a good lettuce, "like dew," should refresh any garden reader. (June) FYI: Since 1994, Madoo has been an independent charitable trust, the Madoo Conservancy. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



INTRODUCTION English Bones, American FleshMy garden is at the far eastern end of Long Island, in New York State, in a town settled in 1656. It is set amidst fields continually farmed since that time, and one would need a maul to separate it from its profoundly English influences. Yet it might take a wedge struck with equal force to pry it from its continuous involvement with the patterns of abstract expressionism, a largely American form of painting.Within that pattern much else went toward the making of my garden: a love of Indian paths, rather like the secret walks small children make (which counts a lot for how one moves through my garden); an admiration of the roan beauties of abandoned farmland pierced by red cedars laced and tied by dog roses, honeysuckle, and brown, dry grass; the memory of a meadow of a single species of short, gray- leaved, flat-topped, open-flowered goldenrod, whose October display was feathered by hundreds of monarch butterflies. I have a stubborn Calvinist belief in utility, which causes me to plant vegetables among flowers, use herbs as borders and berry bushes as ornamentals. The brutish littoral climate leads me to choose only such plants as have infinite stamina. There are recollections of an ancestor who planted hollyhocks at the gate and lilacs out back-but all gardens are a form of autobiography. Moreover, as a painter, I am predelicted toward shape, mass, and form and have learned that the predominant color of all gardens is green and all the rest is secondary bedeckment. Finally, there is something else-a fierce addiction to privacy, which is why my windbreak is thicker than it need be. Madoo, which in an old Scots dialect means "My Dove," is the name of my garden of 1.98 acres, and I have been at it now since 1967. I have gone about it as I would a painting, searching for form rather than prefiguring it, putting it through a process more intuitive than intellectual. The blunders are there to learn from; the successes, more often than not, are the result of bold throws. I started from the house and went out toward the edges, often revising solid achievements until they seemed made of finer matter, like marks and erasures of work on paper, which sometimes may be torn and fitted again in collage. Although I like white on white (the 'Duchess of Edinburgh' clematis on a white fence over Rosa 'Blanc Double de Coubert'), and I like to whiten white by throwing autumn clematis (C. terniflora) over yew, 'Huldine' over holly, the major push is for green on green. I have never cared much for all-gray gardens or all-blue gardens; indeed, I am not certain that they are ever successful, color being too quixotic to control in that fashion, full of lurking betrayals, so that sky blue becomes sea blue or slate blue and then not blue at all. The air over my garden, from whose several points I can see the Atlantic surf, is full of a most peculiar double light, rising and falling, and is itself one of the heroes of my lands Excerpted from Notes from Madoo: Making a Garden in the Hamptons by Robert Dash All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xi
Introduction: English Bones, American Fleshp. 1
The Death of a Fieldp. 6
Color, a Point of Huep. 10
The Chemical-Free Gardenp. 17
Plant Portraits I The Sarvis Treep. 21
Mountain Laurelp. 23
Forsythiap. 26
Black Pussy Willowp. 30
Almost Springp. 33
Seedsp. 36
Notesp. 40
Plant Portraits II False Indigop. 43
Rattle-bagsp. 45
Plume Poppyp. 47
Broomp. 49
First Gardenp. 53
Fairiesp. 57
Our Climatep. 63
Forecastersp. 66
Droughtp. 68
Gloriap. 70
Mayp. 77
The Name of the Rosep. 80
Treesp. 84
Plant Portraits III Wisteriap. 87
Clematisp. 90
The Man with a Spadep. 95
Motherp. 98
Arthur McCullough and His Willow Waterp. 99
Ainsworth Cyphersp. 102
Gertrude Jekyllp. 103
Rosesp. 107
Pathsp. 115
Seatsp. 121
Plant Portraits IV Lettuce Foreverp. 125
Basilp. 127
Celery and Celeriac, Lovage and Smallagep. 129
Alliums and Othersp. 131
Nuts and Berriesp. 134
The Autumn Raspberryp. 137
A Problem Areap. 141
High Summerp. 145
Slug Controlp. 151
Plant Portraits V Gilbert Wild's Daylitiesp. 153
Monkshood Bluesp. 155
Tansyp. 157
Cleomep. 159
Mallowsp. 160
Clethrap. 162
The Garden Tourp. 165
Late Summer Skiesp. 172
The Fall of Summerp. 175
Planting Bulbsp. 179
Striking Vegetablesp. 183
Plant Portraits VI Heleniump. 189
Cosmosp. 191
Milkweedp. 194
Japanese Wood Anemonep. 197
Transplantingp. 201
Manuringp. 204
November Bloomsp. 207
Birdsp. 211
The Hillp. 213
Withered Thingsp. 219
A Mild Winterp. 222
Solsticep. 225
Pitsp. 226
Februaryp. 229
Edenp. 233
Epiloguep. 241