For many lovers of American gardens, the landscape architect Fletcher Steele is their Gershwin and the famous Blue Steps at Naumkeag are his rhapsody.
Happily, the landscape historian Robin Karson’s 1989 fascinating and out-of-print book, Fletcher Steele, Landscape Architect: An Account of the Gardenmaker’s Life, 1885-1971, is available in a revised and handsome paperbound edition (LALH/University of Massachusetts Press, 2003, $34.95). The new book has 50 additional images of Steele’s work at Naumkeag and other estates, many in color.
Karson first learned of Steele after a visit to Naumkeag in Stockbridge, Mass., in 1983; Steele had worked on Naumkeag from the 1930s until 1958, when his wealthy patron, Mabel Choate, died. Miss Choate left the house and gardens to the Trustees of Reservations, which opens the estate to the public annually from Memorial Day weekend to Columbus Day. Karson’s book will hold you over until spring.
(The Blue Steps are on the cover of the book; you can see them for yourself for an $8 fee from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily in season. 5 Prospect Hill Road, Stockbridge, Mass., 413.298.3239; www.thetrustees.org .)