Reflections on Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime

  • Kenneth HelphandEmail author


Why is it that in the midst of a war, perhaps the reddest of red zones, one can still find some green, some gardens? Wartime gardens are dramatic examples of defiant gardens—gardens created in extreme social, psychological, political, economic, or cultural conditions. The book Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime (San Antonio: Trinity University Press 2006) examined gardens of war in the twentieth century—including gardens soldiers built inside and behind the trenches in World War I; gardens built in the Warsaw and other ghettos under the Nazis during World War II; gardens in the Prisoner of War (POW) and civilian internment camps of both world wars; and gardens created by Japanese Americans held at US internment camps during World War II. The commonplace but profound meanings and experience of the garden are magnified in wartime. War gardens domesticate and humanize dehumanized situations. They offer a rejection of suffering and are an inherent affirmation and sign of human perseverance. They assert the dignity of life, human and nonhuman, and celebrate it. Defiant Gardens brought to light a history that has never been studied and moving stories never before told. This chapter includes stories the author encountered since the book’s publication, including gardens made by soldiers in Vietnam, squatters in settlements in Colombia, soldiers and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, prisoners in the United States, and the winner of the Bronze Star for gardening during World War II. Defiant Gardens has inspired projects for military families and veterans and by artists, designers and performers, demonstrating the power of greening in the red zone.


Garden War Defiance Hope Ghetto 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Landscape ArchitectureUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA

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