Marta McDowell lives, writes and gardens in Chatham, New Jersey. She shares her garden with her husband, Kirke Bent, their crested cockatiel, Sydney, and assorted wildlife. Her garden writing has appeared in popular publications such as Woman’s Day, Country Gardening, 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, Unearthing The Secret Garden explores the plants and places that inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett to write the classic children's book. Timber Press also published Emily Dickinson's Gardening Life, The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder, All the Presidents' Gardens, 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 eighth printing. Her books have been translated into Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
Marta's next book is about gardening themes in crime fiction, with the working title Gardening Can Be Murder. It is due out from Timber Press in 2023. For Monacelli Press, she is working on text for a book of photography about five gardens of the du Pont family, now public gardens in the Brandywine Valley. She is also is editing a facsimile edition of Elizabeth Blackwell's 18th century work, A Curious Herbal, for 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 an advisor for the New York Botanical Garden's 2010 show, "Emily Dickinson's Gardens: The Poetry of Flowers." Marta was the 2018 Gardener-in-Residence at the Emily Dickinson Museum.
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, the Smithsonian Institution, 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 and at the Garden Museum's Literary Festival at Chatsworth House in July, 2022.
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 consults for private clients and public gardens. Her latest book is Unearthing The Secret Garden, about the inspiration for the classic children's book. Timber Press also published 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 eighth printing. Marta's new book about garden themes in murder mysteries, is due out from Timber Press in 2023. She was the 2019 recipient of the Garden Club of America's Sarah Chapman Francis Medal for outstanding literary achievement.