Denise Adams

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47 BREWSTER AVE New York 10980

Looking to the past for inspiration for contemporary gardens, audiences across the United States have enthusiastically appreciated Denise’s charming and informative approach to American garden history.





Denise Wiles Adams is an ornamental-plant and garden historian. She received her Ph.D. in horticulture from The Ohio State University and for a decade owned an heirloom-flower and herb nursery. She is a prolific writer and lecturer on topics related to the history of American ornamental gardens and maintains a computer database of over 25,000 names of ornamental plants featured in the catalogs of American nurseries and seed-houses prior to 1950. Denise is the author of Restoring American Gardens: An Encyclopedia of Heirloom Ornamental Plants, 1640-1940 (Timber Press, 2004) and American Home Landscapes (with Laura L. S. Burchfield, Timber Press, 2013).

Denise currently resides in Stony Point, New York where she enjoys researching and making period-appropriate gardens for her 1914 Arts & Crafts-style home.



American Home Landscapes

Based on Denise’s book by the same name (written with Laura Burchfield and released by Timber Press in May, 2013) this lecture provides a historical perspective of the evolution of America’s residential landscapes. From Colonial subsistence gardens to Victorian gardens of excess to 1980s backyard barbecues, this lecture provides something for everyone. Learn about the major landscape design trends and most popular plants since our country’s establishment to the present.


Perennials of the Past for the Present

Antique perennials evoke pleasant memories of simpler times. Characterized by distinctive color and beauty, familiar forms, and often-exquisite fragrance, these plants are old friends in a rapidly changing world. Learn about perennial treasures of the past, which are appropriate for modern gardens.


The Garden at Stony Point

Denise’s residence in Stony Point, New York is a 1914 Arts & Crafts-style house on 0.9 acres of land (including a steep hill). This talk describes the joys and tribulations of developing an aesthetically-pleasing landscape with a nod to specific historic influences on a property chock-full of invasive species with extreme wildlife challenges. Of course the fact that Denise is a confirmed plant-aholic makes the process even more interesting!


Restoring American Gardens: Ornamental Plants and Landscapes, 1770-1920

From the earliest years of our country to the present, we have decorated our home landscapes to reflect both our traditions as well as the popular fashion. This lecture will look at the evolution of American gardening styles and highlight the plants that were important to each period to the post World War I era.


Gardens of the Golden Age: Estate Gardens in America, 1890-1950

Find out who designed the gardens for the elite estates of America during the first half of the twentieth century and what were the distinctive features and plants in those gardens.


Research Methods: Documenting Historic Residential Landscapes

Determining the features of a historic landscape is like working a puzzle. Details might come from the site inventory; architectural style of the house; period books, magazines, newspapers, and trade catalogs; photographs and postcards; diaries and letters; governmental records; as well as other sources of information. This lecture will begin with an overview of the federal approaches for landscape treatment and move to discussion of primary and secondary evidence that may be used for documentation of residential landscapes.


Heirloom Bulbs for Modern Gardens

Surprisingly, a number of century-old bulbs are still available in the marketplace. Learn why these plants have stood the test of time and continue to enhance modern gardens with their beauty and staying power.


Popular Plants of the Past for the Present

Find out which trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, and roses were commonly available to the gardening public in the 1800s and early 1900s. The discussion will include many popularly cultivated plants, perspectives on the availability and use of native plants, as well as insights into fashionable garden styles of the past.


Ohio’s Garden Path (presented at an Ohio garden history symposium)

Horticulture has been important in Ohio since the beginning of the 19th century. Learn about the influential people, extraordinary places, and spectacular plants that have been important to the development of Ohio’s ornamental landscape and gardens.






New York, Mid-Atlantic

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