Trinity University Press

Defiant Gardens

Making Gardens in Wartime

Kenneth I. Helphand (author)

A history of wartime gardens documents how they humanize landscapes and experience, even under the direst conditions

Why is it that in the midst of a war, one can still find gardens? Wartime gardens are dramatic examples of what landscape architect Kenneth Helphand calls defiant gardens—gardens created in extreme social, political, economic, or cultural conditions. In his examination of the landscape of war, Helphand not only details the surprising occurrence of gardens but also provides an expansive account of the events and forces that shaped the lives of people on every side of war. Defiant Gardens brings to light a history that has never been studied and moving stories never before told.

Illustrated with ninety-five startling archival photographs and illustrations, some from the Gulf Wars, this remarkable book examines gardens of war in the twentieth century—a period of the deadliest wars in human history—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 POW and civilian internment camps of both world wars; and gardens created by Japanese Americans held at U.S. internment camps during World War II.

Proving that gardens are far more than peaceful respites from the outside world, Defiant Gardens is a thought-provoking analysis of why people build and work in gardens. Helphand portrays the dramatic range of circumstances in which people have created gardens—as a means of nourishment, as a pursuit of beauty, and as an expression of hope. Informative and inspirational, this history of gardens during wartime documents how gardens have humanized landscapes and experience, even under the most dire conditions.


  • Winner of the American Horticultural Society Book Award
  • Winner of the American Society of Landscape Architecture Award of Excellence in Research
  • Winner of the Foundation for Landscape Studies John Brinckerhoff Jackson Book Prize
  • Winner of the Garden Writers Association Gold Award
  • Winner of the ForeWord Magazine’s Silver Medal (history)
  • Winner of the Environmental Design Research Association Research Award
  • Winner of the Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries Literature Award
  • Designated as a New Statesman Best Book of the Year
  • Designated as a Portland Oregonian Bestseller


“Kenneth Helphand, writes about war gardens—not just victory gardens, grown in time of scarcity, but those planted on hostile fronts, including Eastern Europe's ghettos and the Japanese-American internment camps of World War II. Helphand calls the gardens an act of defiance.”

NPR Morning Edition

“Kenneth Helphand tells Jim Fleming how a photo of a French soldier tending a rose bush in a trench during World War I resulted in his book ‘Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime.’”

To the Best of Our Knowledge

Defiant Gardens cover
  • Price: $29.95 buy »
  • Pages: 320
  • Size: 7 x 10
  • Published: Sep 2008
  • Status: Available
  • ISBN: 9781595340450
  • Illustrations: 12
  • B&W photos: 83
  • Price: $39.95
  • Pages: 320
  • Size: 7 x 10
  • Published: May 2006
  • Status: Out of print
  • ISBN: 9781595340214
  • Illustrations: 12
  • B&W photos: 83


History, Landscape, Gardens