Marta McDowell lives, writes and gardens in Chatham, New Jersey. She shares her garden with her husband Kirke Bent and assorted wildlife. Her garden writing has appeared in popular publications such as Woman’s Day, Country Gardening, and The New York Times. She is a regular contributor to the British journal Hortus.
Marta's work typically follows the relationship between the pen and the trowel, that is authors and their gardens. Her latest book, Gardening Can Be Murder explores the garden as the inspiration for writers of crime fiction. Timber Press also published Unearthing The Secret Garden, Emily Dickinson's Gardening Life, The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder, All the Presidents' Gardens--released in a revised edition in 2024--and Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life. All the Presidents' Gardens made The New York Times bestseller list and won an American Horticultural Society book award in 2017. Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life won the Gold Award from the Garden Writers Association and is now in its ninth printing. Her books have been translated into Chinese, Italian, Japanese, and Korean.
In 2023, Marta wrote the text for a book of photography by Larry Lederman about five gardens of the du Pont family, now public gardens in the Brandywine Valley, published by Monacelli Press. She also edited a facsimile edition of Elizabeth Blackwell's 18th century work A Curious Herbal, released by Abbeville Press.
If you visit the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, you can stroll the grounds with a landscape audio tour that Marta scripted. She was also the 2018 Gardener-in-Residence at the Museum and frequently coordinates its "Garden Days" for volunteers. Marta was an advisor for the New York Botanical Garden's 2010 show, "Emily Dickinson's Gardens: The Poetry of Flowers."
Marta teaches landscape history and horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden where she has been twice awarded "Instructor of the Year." A popular lecturer, she has been a featured speaker online and at locations ranging from the Chicago Botanic Garden to the Smithsonian Institution and the Beatrix Potter Society's Linder Lecture at the Sloane Club in London. She was honored to appear in the PBS American Masters "Laura Ingalls Wilder: Prairie to Page" which first aired in December, 2020, at the Garden Museum's Literary Festival at Chatsworth House in July, 2022, and the Emily Dickinson International Society Conference in July, 2023.
Marta interned at Wave Hill, Frelinghuysen Arboretum, the Royal Horticultural Society’s Rosemoor in Devon, England and at the Chelsea Physic Garden. She worked as a horticulturist for five years at Reeves-Reed Arboretum in New Jersey. Marta is on the Board of the New Jersey Historical Garden Foundation at the Cross Estate. She is the 2019 recipient of the Garden Club of America's Sarah Chapman Francis Medal for outstanding literary achievement. Her garden is included in the Smithsonian's Archive of American Gardens.
Her husband, Kirke, summed up Marta's bio as "I am, therefore I dig."
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Marta McDowell teaches landscape history and horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden and is a popular lecturer and writer. Her latest book is Gardening Can Be Murder, about the horticultural connections to crime fiction. Timber Press also published Unearthing The Secret Garden, Emily Dickinson's Gardening Life, The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder, New York Times-bestselling All the Presidents' Gardens, and Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life, now in its ninth printing. She was the 2019 recipient of the Garden Club of America's Sarah Chapman Francis Medal for outstanding literary achievement.
Photos by Sarma Ozols.