Garden Design

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Garden Design Book Reviews

Click on the book covers below for a full review.

THE PROFESSIONAL DESIGNER’S GUIDE TO GARDEN FURNISHINGS

GARDEN FURNISHINGS

GARDENING VERTICALLY 24 Ideas for Creating Your Own Green Wall

Gardening Vertically

Book Cover - The Vertical Garden

The Vertical Garden

WATER FEATURES A Guide to their Design and Construction

WATER FEATURES

SEEING TREES Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees

SEEING TREES

ENVISIONING THE GARDEN Line, Scale, Distance, Form, Colour and Meaning

ENVISIONING THE GARDEN

PLANTING THE DRY SHADE GARDEN The Best Plants for the Toughest Spot in Your Garden

PLANTING THE DRY SHADE GARDEN

WALLS Elements of Garden and Landscape Architecture

WALLS Elements of Garden and Landscape Architecture

Prairie Style Gardens

PRAIRIE-STYLE GARDENS Capturing the Essence of the American Prairie Wherever You Live

Growing Tasty Tropical

GROWING TASTY TROPICAL PLANTS In any Home, Anywhere

Dear Christo

DEAR CHRISTO Memories of Christopher Lloyd at Great Dixter

Practical Bamboos

PRACTICAL BAMBOOS The 50 Best Plants for Screens, Containers & More

Understanding Garden Design

UNDERSTANDING GARDEN DESIGN The Complete Handbook for Aspiring Designers

GARDEN GUIDE: NEW YORK CITY Revised Edition

GARDEN GUIDE: NEW YORK CITY Revised Edition

The RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers

The RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers

Bloom's Best Perennials and Grasses

Bloom's Best Perennials and Grasses

Gardeners' World First Time Veg Grower

Gardeners' World First Time Veg Grower

Succulent Container Gardens

Succulent Container Gardens

Fearless Colour Gardens

Fearless Colour Gardens

Gardening Step By Step

Pests and Diseases

Gardening Step By Step

Gardening Step By Step

Perfect Plant Perfect Place

Perfect Plant Perfect Place

Big Gardens In Small Spaces

Big Gardens In Small Spaces

The Wild Garden

The Wild Garden

Pests and Diseases

Pests and Diseases

Clematis For Small Spaces

Clematis For Small Spaces

The Well-Designed Mixed Garden

The Well-Designed Mixed Garden

The Rock Garden Plant Primer

The Rock Garden Plant Primer

The New Low Maintenance Garden

The New Low Maintenance Garden

Gardening with Shape, Line and Texture

Gardening with Shape, Line and Texture

The Pruning of Trees, Shrubs, and Conifers

The Pruning of Trees, Shrubs, and Conifers

Parks, Plants and People

Parks, Plants and People

The Explorers Garden

The Explorers Garden

Wildlife Gardening

Wildlife Gardening

The Organic Gardener's Handbook

The Organic Gardener's Handbook

Gardening on Clay

Gardening on Clay

Tall Perennials

Tall Perennials

The Essential Garden Design Workshop

The Essential Garden Design Workshop

Cotoneasters

Cotoneasters

Hidcote - The Making of a Garden

Hidcote - The Making of a Garden

Shed Chic

Shed Chic

Green Flowers

Green Flowers

50 High-Impact, Low-Care Garden Plants

50 High-Impact, Low-Care Garden Plants

Book Cover - Perennial Companions

Perennial Companions

Book Cover - The Natural Garden Handbook

The Natural Garden Handbook

Book Cover - Natural Garden Style

Natural Garden Style

Book Cover - The Book Of Weeds

The Book Of Weeds

Book Cover - Encyclopedia Of Garden Design

Encyclopedia Of Garden Design

Book Cover - The English Roses

The English Roses

Book Cover - 1000 Garden Ideas

1000 Garden Ideas

Book Cover - Dream Gardens: 100 Inspirational Gardens

Dream Gardens: 100 Inspirational Gardens

Book Cover - RHS Encyclopedia Of Garden Plants

Encyclopedia Of Garden Plants

Book Cover - Joe's Urban Garden Handbook

Joe's Urban Garden Handbook

Book Cover - Green Roofs: In Sustainable Landscape Design

Green Roofs

Book Cover - The Vertical Garden

The Vertical Garden

Book Cover - Design Your Garden

Design your Garden

Book Cover - Driveways, Paths and Patios

Driveways, Paths and Patios


THE PROFESSIONAL DESIGNER’S GUIDE TO GARDEN FURNISHINGS

Vanessa Gardner Nagel, Timber Press, ISBN 978-1-60469-293-8, Hardback, Published September 2013, RRP £25.00

THE PROFESSIONAL DESIGNER’S GUIDE TO GARDEN FURNISHINGS

It is only too easy for designers and clients alike to focus on hard landscaping and plants without giving much, if any, thought to the finishing touches. From seats to sculpture, these are items that can make or break a garden just as much as any tree or pergola.

The author’s first career was in interior design and she has now brought her skills and knowledge into the world of garden design. This publication has been written in order to help designers select appropriate outdoor furnishings by providing information on style, materials and products.

The broad topic of style is covered in the first section with individual chapters on design history, comfort, scale and proportion and architecture. The overriding emphasis is on linking all elements together, for example the history and architecture of the building should be reflected in the chosen accessories such as furniture. The reader is also reminded there is no point in choosing something that looks good but is not right for the space or the client. Designers can take great pains to ensure the design sits well in it’s location but often the same cannot be said for the final accessories, especially if their choice is left to the client.

The second section covers materials and looks at origins, fabrication, finishes and much more. Featured materials are wood, metal, textiles, wicker, ceramics, stone, glass, concrete and synthetics and each has a useful checklist of questions the designer should ask either themselves, their clients or the supplier in order to evaluate if they are fit for purpose.

The final section looks at what to expect when working with people in the furnishings trade and other trade-related issues. Although this publication is written first and foremost for the American market, the same issues affect anyone dealing with companies, artisans etc. The only chapter that does not apply here is the resource information which is USA-based.

Most designers at some point in their career have returned to a project they were originally very happy with, only to find the client has added accessories which do not suit the design or location. Many clients want to make the finishing touches themselves but perhaps designers should give them a copy of this book first!

Buy this book

© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

GARDENING VERTICALLY 24 Ideas for Creating Your Own Green Wall

Noémie Vialard, Norton, ISBN 978-0-393-73370-9, Softback, Published July 2012, RRP £17.99

GARDENING VERTICALLY 24 Ideas for Creating Your Own Green Wall

Patrick Blanc’s internationally renowned green walls which grace the sides of city buildings around the world are an inspiration to everyone yet there has been little information available on how to bring this concept to the domestic garden. A major reason is that Blanc has patented his technique but he has given Vialard permission to pass on this knowledge (to the domestic gardener for their personal use only) and now the handyman/gardener has everything they need to know. Although I haven’t actually tried building a green wall, her instructions seem logical and easy to follow and are illustrated with clear diagrams and photographs of a project in her own garden. It does appear that irrigation can be difficult to get right and Vialard shares her experience of problems and solutions. Eight different ‘menus’ of plants to use, for example, perfumed, foliage and aromatic are given with corresponding illustrations.

But it is not just the Patrick Blanc style of green wall that is covered. Ideas for attaching and growing plants to walls and posts etc are also included and again come with lovely pictures and illustrations. Plants used vary from vegetables to shrubs, annuals to trailing perennials. Her style of writing is very informal and in places almost ‘chatty’, yet it does not lose its cohesion.

I really like this book and although maybe I will never take that step and build my own mini Patrick Blanc green wall, I do feel that now (with a little help from my husband!) perhaps I could.

Buy this book

© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

THE VERTICAL GARDEN From Nature to the City

Patrick Blanc, Norton, ISBN 978-039373379-2, Hardback, Published March 2012, RRP £39.99

THE VERTICAL GARDEN From Nature to the City

Since the publication of Patrick Blanc’s original book in 2008 he has continued producing wonderful landscapes on the side of buildings, both indoors and out. Along with the original projects featured this new version includes over 30 pages of his latest work ranging from the facade of a London pub to the interior of a 5 star hotel in Hong Kong).

The remaining chapters are still included: the story of Blanc’s background (he became a scientist and researcher travelling the world studying plants and their environment), an in-depth look at plants and their natural habitats, and how he developed the technique for successfully clothing buildings with plants (without damaging the buildings while allowing the plants to thrive).

Because of its size, at first glance it does look like a coffee-table book, not least because of the stunning photographs. However it is not just a book of pretty pictures. Patrick Blanc is the creator of this style of gardening so who better to explain the trials, tribulations, joy and success he has had for the last 25 years.

In recent times several RHS show gardens have included versions of the green and proved extremely popular with the public. Very few of us could have a Patrick Blanc vertical garden on our houses but a large number of his projects are in public places and to see them would be a perfect excuse to travel the world.

Buy this book

© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

WATER FEATURES A Guide to their Design and Construction

Peter J May, Crowood, ISBN 9-781847-972743, Softback, Published June 2011, £14.99

WATER FEATURES A Guide to their Design and Construction

One of the most common requests of designers is a water feature of some sort and yet it can be one of the hardest to get right – or the easiest to get wrong. It is vital that no matter what the size or location, it must be of sound construction and as with so many things there is more than one method. In this book May explains the alternatives and gives advice on the best method for different features including the equally important finishing touches. Methods for the construction of features from large rock waterfalls to formal ponds are explained and illustrated with excellent photographs.

Features to suit all tastes and budgets are included and there is an excellent section on plants and planting. For those looking for a good introduction to water feature construction this would be a good book to buy.

Buy this book

© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

SEEING TREES Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees

Nancy Ross Hugo, Photography by Robert Llewellyn, Timber Press, ISBN 978-1-60469-219-8, Hardback. September 2011, RRP £18.99

SEEING TREES Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees

The aim of this publication is to encourage the reader to look at trees in an entirely different way. Gardeners and designers probably focus on height, spread and colour but this publication highlights the delicate intricacies of the individual parts of a tree.

The photographs are stunning. Individual parts of the plant are shown in fantastic close-ups on stark white backgrounds which allows the eye to be drawn to the smallest detail. Colours are vivid and bright with each one having the wow-factor. If pictures alone could sell a book this would definitely be a best-seller. Many publications with pictures of this quality are really just coffee table books – they look great but don’t actually say much – but this publication is more than that. I never knew you could view the swimming sperm – yes, sperm – of a ginkgo tree on YouTube! Ross Hugo eloquently describes the features of trees – leaves, flowers and cones, fruit, buds and leaf scars and bark and twigs - then goes on to focus on individual trees. Unfortunately less than half of the 10 trees featured appear to be readily available in this country but please, if you are a tree lover, do not let that put you off as this is such an amazingly beautiful and interesting book.

Buy this book

© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

ENVISIONING THE GARDEN Line, Scale, Distance, Form, Colour and Meaning

Robert Mallet, Drawings Yves Poinsot, Norton, ISBN 978-0-393-73342-6, Softback, Published July 2011, RRP £24.99

ENVISIONING THE GARDEN Line, Scale, Distance, Form, Colour and Meaning

Most garden designers have probably read countless books on the principles of design so I wasn’t really expecting to find anything new in this publication. However I am happy to say I was pleasantly surprised.

Mallet has the unique experience of spending twenty years in charge of a corner of England in France, working at Le Bois des Moutiers - a house and garden created for Mallet’s grandfather by the phenomenal pairing of Lutyens and Jekyll. Yet Mallet is not stuck in the past, bringing a fresh look and feel to a well-trodden topic. In part this is due to the use of excellent photographs, mainly of gardens in France which for us in the UK means we are not seeing the same, albeit wonderful, examples of British or American gardens that appear in many of our books and magazines.

Key to this book is Mallet’s explanation of the theory behind how the brain sees the world and its application to different aspects of garden design such as scale, distance and colour. It soon becomes clear that understanding these principles can make the design process very exciting and enable the designer to achieve the maximum potential of each site. Although tricks of the trade such as using colour to accentuate depth appear in most other design publications, Mallet somehow brings a new and interesting way of explaining and illustrating the various techniques and certainly made me feel that almost anything is possible.

This is quite pricey for its size but if you are looking to add to your collection of books on design principles I would recommend it. The writing style makes for an interesting and easy read and is full of excellent ideas on how to make the most of our garden spaces.

Buy this book

© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

PLANTING THE DRY SHADE GARDEN The Best Plants for the Toughest Spot in Your Garden

Graham Rice, Timber Press, ISBN 9781604691870, Softback, Published September 2011, RRP £14.99

PLANTING THE DRY SHADE GARDEN The Best Plants for the Toughest Spot in Your Garden

Any gardener will know that dry shade can be difficult to plant successfully. But there are plants out there that will cope with these conditions and this book provides a valuable source of ideas.

Over 130 plants are listed with well-written descriptions giving all the usual details but Rice also includes useful hints and tips such as those that might become invasive or need special attention. There are no fancy plants here – all are well-known and easily found in nurseries and garden centres (readers in the UK may need to ignore some of the common names as they are USA versions) and are split into Shrubs, Climbers, Perennials, Ground Covers, Bulbs and Annuals and Biennials. Each plant is accompanied by good photographs.

The opening sections provide useful information on dry shade; its causes, how trees cast different types of shade and how to reduce shade and improve soil conditions.

This is a good, simple, down-to-earth book which should prove invaluable to gardeners and designers alike.

Buy this book

© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

WALLS Elements of Garden and Landscape Architecture

Günter Mader, Elke Zimmermann, Norton, ISBN 978-0-393-73294-8, 28 June 2011, RRP £30.00

WALLS Elements of Garden and Landscape Architecture

Walls often form a very important part of a garden’s design either as freestanding or retaining structures. Mader and Zimmerman look at their cultural history, even The Berlin Wall gets a mention, before going on to design fundamentals. Elements such as foundations, copings, height and thickness are all covered.

The majority of this book examines in detail different types of wall including stone, concrete, brick, plastered, gabion and more. The authors write with considerable authority and give detailed information on all aspects of construction. Photographic examples are plentiful and of high quality showing some amazing examples from the purely functional to truly sculptural. Structural drawings will help the designer with technical aspects of construction techniques.

This is an excellent publication to have on your shelf for use both as a source of information and inspiration.

Buy this book

© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

PRAIRIE-STYLE GARDENS Capturing the Essence of the American Prairie Wherever You Live

Lynn M Steiner, Timber Press, ISBN 978-1-60469-003-3, Hardback, Published October 2010, RRP £20.00

Prairie Style Gardens

Prairie planting has been popular now for a number of years although achieving a successful scheme can be harder than it looks. This publication is an interesting read and provides an insight into the plants and their native habitats. Steiner is honest in her assessment of how easy or difficult this style of planting can be and includes useful lists of plants to suit many different situations. Her writing style makes this an easy yet informative read and is illustrated by many photographs including one for every plant in the Plant Profile chapter.

This is a publication aimed at the US audience and many plants included will not be found in this country and are often referred to by their common names which mean nothing to most in the UK. However the general information about prairies and their ecosystems is invaluable to anyone wanting to create this style of planting and there are enough plants included which are easily available here to make this a worthwhile purchase (the Resources section does include three of the UK’s best known nursery suppliers).

Buy this book

© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

GROWING TASTY TROPICAL PLANTS In any Home, Anywhere

Laurelynn G Martin and Byron E Martin, Storey Publishing, ISBN 978-1-60342-577-3, Softback, Published February 2011, £13.99

Growing Tasty Tropical

Over the last few years garden centres seem to have dramatically reduced the space given over to houseplants and the varieties available are very limited. I wonder if this is because many have found that both our climate and central heating systems do not make for the best of growing conditions. However the title of this book suggests that shouldn’t be an issue!

The book itself looks great – each plant has a close-up photograph of the fruit and a colour drawing of the whole plant. The descriptive information is written in an informal style yet contains everything you need to know. Panels give the basics of growing conditions, care etc. There is also a chapter on general care, maintenance and propagation.

At first sight it definitely fills the reader with excitement at the prospect of growing unusual plants such as Acca sellowiana (Pineapple guava) and Synsepalum dulcificum (Miracle berry). However, this is an American publication and all the suppliers listed are in North America. Having carried out a quick internet search I found one supplier in the UK that stocked two of the featured plants and apart from citrus and figs I wonder exactly how easy it would be to find desired specimens in our nurseries and garden centres.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

DEAR CHRISTO Memories of Christopher Lloyd at Great Dixter

Timber Press, ISBN 978-1-60469-223-5, Hardback, Published November 2010, RRP £18.99

Dear Christo

For lovers of Great Dixter and Christopher Lloyd’s writing this will make a fascinating read. The Foreward by Beth Chatto and Preface by Fergus Garrett and Rosemary Alexander are simply tasters before the main course. This is a book of memories with contributions from his wide circle of family and friends recalling times spent in his presence and the impact he had on their lives.

These personal stories beautifully invoke the atmosphere of the historic house, exquisite gardens and the rather eccentric nature of the man himself. Contributors describe Lloyd as a kind and generous person and are obviously in awe of his knowledge and experience but many were also perhaps a little nervous in his company as he was also famous for having a forthright nature and very strong opinions. Some describe actions and comments that seem rather rude yet obviously he had something special which ensured he made friends for life. The memories are funny, endearing and entertaining yet at no time overly sentimental.

It is clear that Christopher Lloyd did things his way and didn’t care what other people thought yet other people thought a great deal of him.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

PRACTICAL BAMBOOS The 50 Best Plants for Screens, Containers & More

Paul Whittaker, Timber Press, ISBN 978-1-60469-056-9, Softback, Published November 2010, RRP £14.99

Practical Bamboos

As one of this country’s leading experts on bamboos, Paul Whittaker has already given gardeners an excellent book on the subject – Hardy Bamboos, Taming the Dragon – and I wondered whether another publication was really necessary. Perhaps I should have taken more notice of the titles, after all not all ‘hardy’ bamboos are very ‘practical’ in many gardens.

Whittaker has an easy style of writing that is both interesting and informative – I have to admire someone who can make reading about rhizomes enjoyable! He is often able to draw on personal experience when describing how individual plants behave or can recount stories of specimens in other people’s gardens. Like his first book there are chapters on the history, structure and uses of bamboo along with advice on planting and after-care. In this new publication Whittaker has carefully distilled the information down to the essential and most interesting. Plant descriptions contain all the usual detail such as height and spread etc but bamboos are plants that can vary tremendously depending on local growing conditions and Whittaker does an admirable job in explaining these differences so the reader should be able to decide if a plant that is invasive in one garden might be very well-behaved in another. Advice on suitability for different uses such as windbreaks, containerisation and plant association are other topics discussed.

If you are looking for more detailed scientific facts and information on a large range of plants then Hardy Bamboos is the book for you, however any garden designer looking to make an informed decision when choosing specimens for their projects should find Practical Bamboos will give them all the information they require.

Buy this book

© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

UNDERSTANDING GARDEN DESIGN The Complete Handbook for Aspiring Designers

Vanessa Gardner Nagel, Timber Press, ISBN 978-88192-943-0, Hardback, Published July 2010, RRP £20.00

Understanding Garden Design

When reviewing new publications I tend to assume the author has taken a lot of time and effort to produce a publication that will be of interest to its target audience. Unfortunately I really think this particular offering is totally wide of the mark.

Nagel’s introduction states it was her daughter who commented that existing garden design books ‘all start somewhere in the middle’ ie with a discussion of basic design principles and that she wanted a book ‘that truly started at the beginning’. From this I concluded the target audience to be keen gardeners looking for guidance in designing their own garden.

I admit to being unfamiliar both with how designers in the US are taught and what publications are available. Perhaps the techniques Nagel uses are relevant there but I simply found many of her ideas confusing if not virtually pointless and find it hard to imagine many gardeners reading to the end and putting her theories into practice.

This book is written entirely for the US market (measurements are imperial and references to architecture, plants, pests etc are all irrelevant in the UK) and this only adds to its deficiencies which are too many to list here.

Timber Press also produce an excellent publication on the same subject, The Essential Garden Design Workbook by Rosemary Alexander, which covers everything the amateur or professional needs to know so buy that and not this which left me both confused and bewildered.

Buy this book

© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

GARDEN GUIDE: NEW YORK CITY Revised Edition

Nancy Berner and Susan Lowry, Norton, ISBN 978-0-393-73307-5, Softback, 26 October 2010, RRP £14.99

GARDEN GUIDE: NEW YORK CITY Revised Edition

Perhaps it’s just me, but great gardens are not the first things that spring to mind when thinking of New York. I’ve been there, and gardens didn’t exactly leap out at me from between the towering skyscrapers. But perhaps that’s not surprising as I was there with family to see the more usual tourist attractions such as The Empire State Building and The Statue of Liberty. However it really never occurred to me that New York might have gardens worth visiting.

Until recently I think the only green space in New York most people could have named was Central Park. However over the last few months the gardening press has devoted substantial space to the development of the High Line in downtown Manhattan – a disused elevated mile-and-a-half long train track - and having read this book, I now realise this is just the tip of the iceberg and so much more is available to the visitor looking for gardening inspiration.

The First Edition was published in 2002 and since then many new gardens have been added to the city so this Second Edition contains ten new important gardens as well as many smaller ones and includes both major public projects and community gardens. There is no doubt the public projects look great with examples such as Battery Park leading the way (notably Piet Oudolf was hired to create planting schemes for both there and the High Line) and should be an inspiration to other major cities around the world.

Equally the community gardens are just as important in showing how groups of people can make a real difference to their local environment. Riverside Valley Community Garden is a prime example. The authors describe how one couple, Victor and Jenny Benitez set about transforming a hot spot for drugs, crime and rubbish into a flourishing garden with flowers and raised vegetable beds. They now have over 30 ‘official’ garden members who work on the project who are rewarded with not only a share of the harvest but also a home-cooked meal at the end of the day, often prepared by Jenny Benitez herself. This is inspirational gardening in so many ways and is only one example of the fascinating stories behind many of these gardens.

This is not a book full of photographs, although those included are of good quality (by Joseph De Sciose) and at first sight I was a little disappointed. However Berner and Lowry’s superb text more than makes up for this and I would now love to return to New York with this book in my suitcase to explore more than the usual tourist attractions.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

The RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers 5th Edition

Editor in Chief: Christopher Brickell, Dorling Kindersley, ISBN 978-1-4053-5423-3, Hardback, Published 13 September 2010, RRP £35.00

The RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers

Dorling Kindersley are the masters of producing beautiful reference books and this is no exception. It is packed with useful information for both the beginner and more experienced gardener. It features over 8000 plants and thousands of photographs to aid with identification and selecting plants. This latest edition has been overhauled with the inclusion of new cultivars and varieties and expansion of chapters such as that on climbers now includes wall shrubs.

The initial section gives basic advice on creating, designing and caring for a garden followed by an enlarged plant selector which I am sure everyone looking for ideas on the best plants to choose for different areas of a garden will find extremely useful. Handily, each plant listed has the page number where it can found elsewhere in the book. The heart of the book is the illustrated plant catalogue with all the usual headings such as Trees, Perennials, and Bulbs as well as others sometimes not covered separately in many other publications like Water and Bog Plants and Rock Plants. Each specimen is accompanied by a colour photograph and detailed description with cultivar requirements. There is also a text-only plant dictionary with entries for every genus in the Encyclopedia plus an additional 3000 plants and also acts as an index with extensive cross-referencing.

The subject of Plants and Flowers is vast and it is just not possible to include every example in one publication. However if you only own one book on the subject this would be a good one to have: the RHS does its best to provide concise, relevant information (although things such as growth vary hugely from one area to another) and Dorling Kindersley know how to lay out and illustrate a book to make the reader want to turn every page.

Buy this book

© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

BLOOM’S BEST PERENNIALS AND GRASSES Expert Plant Choices and Dramatic Combinations for Year-Round Gardens

Adrian Bloom, Timber Press, ISBN 978-0-88192-931-7, Hardback, Published May 2010, RRP £20

Bloom's Best Perennials and Grasses

As the past owner of Blooms of Bressingham, Adrian Bloom has to be one of this country’s most well-known gardeners and although those of us of ‘a certain age’ may well link his name with conifers things have moved on since the 1980s. Today, Adrian’s garden is full of a wide range of plants with perennials and grasses forming a large part of his planting schemes.

Many gardeners, faced with a fantastic selection of plants now available through nurseries and garden centres, find it difficult to know what will be a good buy and it is normally only through trial and experience that they discover which ones give the best value for money. However the aim of this publication is to focus the reader on plants that Adrian has already found to be either the longest flowering, hardiest or easiest to grow – and in some cases hopefully all three!

In the directory of recommended perennials and grasses nearly eighty plants are profiled, giving the reader a full description including their place of origin, preferred conditions and general care. If eighty plants still seem too many, Adrian also gives his top twelve plants and I can personally vouch for eight of them as they have been growing very successfully in my own garden for many years and the remaining four often appear in my planting plans.

The photography by Adrian and Richard Bloom beautifully illustrates over 200 perennials, showing many as part of larger planting combinations, and the first few pages are dedicated to gardens at Bressingham throughout the seasons. The style of writing is clear and concise, and is pitched at a level that will not be too ‘high-brow’ for a novice gardener and yet should still be of interest to those with more experience. Chapters on designing with plants and preparation, planting and maintenance contain all the information the reader should need to successfully grow these plants and I like the fact that Adrian has included facts that are often not mentioned in other publications such as a plant’s negative points or explaining how to keep some tall plants shorter while not losing flowers. Last but not least are lists of plants for different uses, US hardiness zones (handily with equivalent UK conditions) and top suppliers in the UK and around the world.

Despite already being familiar with most of the plants listed I still enjoyed reading this book and gleaned new tips. Adrian’s style is so easy to read – it’s more conversational than most horticultural books where it can be necessary to re-read a sentence to fully understand it. The information is down-to-earth and most importantly, useful!

Buy this book

© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

GARDENERS’ WORLD FIRST TIME VEG GROWER

Martyn Cox, BBC Books, ISBN 978-1-846-07920-7, April 2010, Paperback, RRP £4.99

Gardeners' World First Time Veg Grower

If you are just starting out growing vegetables you may have already found some publications on the subject are great but can give you ‘information overload’. This one takes all the information you would expect: crop rotation, planting practice, different growing methods, tools etc and gives clear and simple explanations of each.

I particularly liked the section on how to choose the best vegetables. Although the advice may seem obvious - to choose vegetables you like to eat that will suit the available space and growing conditions – these are things often forgotten when faced with lots of exciting seed packets at the garden centre. Fifteen different types of vegetable are listed, including radish, tomato, lettuce, runner beans and kale. Not only does each have a section on where, when and how to grow but also one for what can go wrong. At least if you know what to expect you can be prepared to wage war on the pests and diseases that love the plants as much as you!

If you want no-nonsense, common-sense, very practical advice on the easiest vegetables to grow this would be a great buy and also provides a good solid basis for more advanced growing in subsequent years.

Buy this book

© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

SUCCULENT CONTAINER GARDENS Design Eye-Catching Displays With 350 Easy-Care Plants

Debra Lee Baldwin, Timber Press, ISBN: 978-0881929591, March 2010, Hardcover, RRP £20.00

Succulent Container Gardens

My first thought was that this is a book on a subject in which I would have little or no interest, and what is more, written very much from an American viewpoint! Never judge a book by its cover (or subject!). I found it a fascinating tour de force of the use of succulents.

The book is split into 5 parts – part 1 deals with container selection and pairing plants with pots, design criteria to enhance your own selections and lots of photographs. Part 2, the so- called plant palette, deals with colours and companion planting. Part 3 gives an overview of where succulents can be used such as outdoor spaces, planted walls, hanging baskets, miniature landscapes and even wreaths! Part 4 looks at planting, care and propagation and Part 5 is a very extensive plant list.

The author, Debra Lee Baldwin based on the west coast of America, is obviously succulent driven and has written and lectured on the subject extensively.The climate in her part of the world allows the use of species outdoors denied to us in the UK, but even allowing for this the way the book develops the subject should appeal to most gardeners.

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© David Browning

FEARLESS COLOUR GARDENS: The Creative Gardener’s Guide to Jumping off the Colour Wheel

Keeyla Meadows, Timber Press, ISBN 978-0-881-929-409, March 2010, Hardcover, RRP £18.99

Fearless Colour Gardens

Holding a bachelor’s degree from the California Institute of the Arts, a master’s degree in sculpture and goodness knows what else, Keeyla approaches garden design from a slightly different direction from the more traditional designer. She looks at gardens as large scale works of art and also makes furniture and planters for the garden.

The rather awkward title of the book does it no favours as the lady sure knows how to use colour probably helped by the lovely climate for which is California is famous. Putting her theories to work on a drab day in England could be more difficult.

The grammar and sentence construction is very west coast America and sometimes difficult to take seriously as in ‘I have installed tons and tons and tons of la-dee-dee-da-dee-da rock. Get into the act. Be a rocker in the garden.’! When discussing the colour red – ‘Red-Dance It Hot! Hot! Hot!’

The photographs and drawings make this a very colourful book to browse through and there is no shortage of ideas to take from it. Maybe some of what she does could give some of our garden designers an edge over their competition.

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© David Browning

Gardeners’ World magazine Pests and Diseases

David Hurrion, BBC Books, ISBN 978-1-846-07919-1, Softback, Published April 2010, RRP £4.99

Gardeners’ World magazine PESTS AND DISEASES

No matter how good a gardener you are, nature often conspires to undo all your good work. Aphids multiply almost before your eyes while slugs and snails sneak out at night to wreak havoc on tasty new foliage. Even the most inexperienced gardener will probably know about these common pests but there are a whole host of plant problems that are likely to be less familiar and the wider variety of plants grown the range of pests and diseases also expands.

David Hurrion gives an explanation of each problem ie how and why an insect might attack a plant, followed by symptoms seen on the plant and methods of control with good photographs to illustrate each. Also included are chapters explaining the basic types of pests and diseases and how to use good gardening techniques to try and prevent attack before it happens.

This is a great little book for anyone wanting expert advice on both cure and prevention techniques.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

GARDENING STEP BY STEP Easy-to-follow advice for great results

Royal Horticultural Society, Dorling Kindersley, ISBN 978-1-4053-5381-6, Hardback, Published 1 April 2010, RRP £16.99

Gardening Step By Step

This publication brings together four of the best-selling Simple Steps titles and creates an excellent gardening manual. There are sections on planting a small garden, easy-care gardening, easy pruning and vegetables in a small garden with each one giving the reader excellent advice. For example pruning covers why and when to prune (ie to encourage flowering or create space), what tools to use and how to care for them, how to make the right cut and expands this information with examples of different plants and their pruning regime. As ever with Dorling Kindersley all this is accompanied by excellent photographs not just of individual plants but also, where appropriate, uses a series of photographs to illustrate a task from beginning to end.

For established designers the sections on design and plant choices are quite basic but nevertheless the ideas and photographs are all excellent and would certainly be useful as a source of inspiration if needed. Less experienced gardeners will definitely find the plant suggestions and plant recipes very helpful.

Overall this title does not push the boundaries for those with a good knowledge of garden plants and techniques. However by bringing these titles under one cover the RHS has produced an excellent all-round garden manual which should prove useful to both novice gardeners and those with more experience who may be wanting a few hints and tips on gardening practice or who may be looking at aspects of gardening for the first time.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

PERFECT PLANT PERFECT PLACE Expert advice on choosing the best outdoor and indoor plants

Roy Lancaster, Dorling Kindersley, ISBN 978-1-4053-4813-3, Softback, Published February 2010, RRP £18.99

Perfect Plant Perfect Place

This updated version of an old favourite first seen on bookshelves in 2001 contains 50 new cultivars with all plant names checked and updated and advice on pest controls revised in line with current legislation. Over 1800 photographs illustrate the best plants for every site and situation with on average 12 examples in each category. As well as outdoor plants, just under a third of the space is dedicated to houseplants.

The plants suggested are, on the whole, to be easily found in garden centres or nurseries. Each one has all the basic information required to make an informed plant choice with information on hardiness, dimensions, light and Ph levels. My only criticism would be there are no warnings against garden plants that are generally regarded to be invasive in many parts of the country such as Hypericum calycinum, a ground cover plant that will happily cover ALL your ground.

However this should not deter the reader from choosing plants direct from the book. Professionals and amateurs alike can get stuck using the same old plants and this is a great book to provide reminders of old favourites or ideas for something not tried before.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

BIG GARDENS IN SMALL SPACES Out-of-the-Box Advice for Boxed-in Gardeners

Martyn Cox, Timber Press, ISBN 978-0-88192-907-2, Hardback, March 2010, RRP £18.99

Big Gardens In Small Spaces

The author grows 250 different plants in his 450 sq. ft garden – at 30’ X 15’ this is the same size as many town gardens. He is a self-confessed plantaholic and plant collector and roundly criticises owners of similar small plots for not having more imagination. It is difficult to find fault with his enthusiasm and is somewhat surprising that he has been able to produce some 200 plus pages of ideas to create your very own urban jungle.

He promotes the use of sinks, walls, baskets, cracks in the path and even the roof of his garden shed, as areas to grow just about everything. He is lucky that his children are young and not yet into ball games as there is very little scope for vigorous play areas. Pots are used on a grand scale and he does admit that maintenance and particularly watering are a full time job; going on holiday represents a massive challenge for him and would be daunting for many people.

Notwithstanding the obvious downsides to his style of gardening the book is full of suggestions and, illustrated with many photographs, should give anyone reading it ideas for livening up their own urban space and even find space for the odd lettuce!

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© David Browning
Guest Reviewer from David Browning Garden Designs

THE WILD GARDEN Expanded Edition

William Robinson and Rick Darke, Timber Press, ISBN 978-088192-955-3, January 2010, RRP £20.00

The Wild Garden

The Wild Garden was first published in 1870, written by William Robinson who died in 1935 aged 95. Robinson advocated a more naturalistic style of gardening using native and exotic plants arranged in groupings mimicking wild landscapes. He was committed to replacing Victorian carpet bedding which was renewed annually and meant that only a small part of the year had anything worth looking at.

The book uses many black and white drawings and there is a fascinating section detailing plants for specific areas, covering topics such as ‘Dwarf Vegetation on bare banks and in poorish soil’ to ‘plants for growing on old walls, ruins or rocky slopes’ as well as making copious suggestions on 17 different planting conditions. All of these will resonate with the modern garden designer and the whole book is full of suggestions relevant to this generation seeking sustainable design and management practices.

Rick Darke is an award winning photographer and landscape consultant and has added new chapters and pictures from his extensive travels in Europe and the Americas. He discusses Robinson’s theories and illustrates them perfectly with modern examples. He explores the difference between wildness and wilderness and explains how even small plots can embrace the concept of the wild garden with interest all the year round. There could be wildness in woodlands, prairies, meadows, sea shores, deserts and even urban areas.

Really two books in one, the original still very relevant to today, and the expanded edition with a foreword by Rick Darke placing the original thoughts of Robinson into a modern setting. This is a welcome addition to anyone’s gardening library and a book to be enjoyed as a work of reference.

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© David Browning
Guest Reviewer from David Browning Garden Designs

PESTS AND DISEASES Simple steps to success

Andrew Halstead and Béatrice Henricot, Royal Horticultural Society, DK, ISBN 978-1-4053-4886-7, Softback, Published March 2010, RRP £6.99

Pests and Diseases

Readers of this book could be forgiven for wondering how anyone manages to grow anything. Every favourite garden plant seems to have its own set of problems with a myriad of creatures or diseases just lying in wait to pounce the moment something is planted.

There are already many general gardening publications that include information on pests and diseases but these usually are quite a dull read and have very few (if any) decent illustrations. This however is a smart little book with excellent photographs of all the main culprits from aphids to canker. In fact half of this publication is dedicated to the identification of problems on specific plants with sections covering trees, shrubs and climbers, herbaceous perennials and fruit, vegetables and herbs (my favourite has to be Dianthus smut).

But this is not just a book to identify problems, it also aims to give the gardener the tools to both deal with difficulties as they arise and also to prevent them happening in the first place. It begins with a chapter on the basics of how to create a healthy garden with information on soil nutrients, hygiene, good pruning and the importance of choosing the right plant for the right place and continues by looking at different types of pests and diseases, including above and below ground attackers and how to diagnose disease. If control is required, both chemical and non-chemical treatments are explained including use of beneficial wildlife.

Sometimes publications with ‘simple’ in the title mean that they are only relevant to novice gardeners but this is different. Pest and diseases will attack anyone’s plants, novice or expert and the full-colour photographs are certain to aid any gardener in identifying problems. With the advice coming from two top experts in the horticultural world – Andrew Halstead is the RHS’s Principal Entomologist and Béatrice Henricot is Principal Pathologist – what more could you want!

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

CLEMATIS FOR SMALL SPACES 150 High-Performance Plants for Patios, Decks, Balconies and Borders

Raymond J Evison, Timber Press, ISBN 978-0-88192-851-8, Hardback, Published 2007, RRP £20.00

Clematis For Small Spaces

There is no doubt if you want to know something about clematis then Raymond J Evison has to be the man to ask. He first caught the clematis ‘bug’ at the age of sixteen when he worked with Ernest Markham for William Robinson at Gravetye Manor and at twenty-four helped Christopher Lloyd with his first book on Clematis. This led on to a passion for breeding and he has created some of the most beautiful and useful clematis for use in today’s smaller gardens. I already have a couple of specimens in my own garden and find them to be free-flowering and extremely healthy.

Clematis are among my favourite plants and are usually the first choice for climbers in any planting plan. There are chapters on early, mid and late season flowering clematis the last two of which are subdivided into flower types such as single large-flowered etc. Other chapters include the best plants for different situations such as containers, borders, small gardens and sun and shade. Designers will be particularly interested in the advice on plant combinations, some of which I have already followed for a recent project and it will be interesting to see the results in the coming years.

I believe the pruning of clematis is something many gardeners are confused by but the pruning information in this publication is well-written and easy to follow. Although the title of the book suggests that only the smallest clematis might be included this is not the case as Evison acknowledges that even a small garden may have a house wall large enough to take plants such as Clematis montana.

If you only have room on your shelf for one book on clematis then definitely consider this one. The photographs are excellent although I always wish there was one for every plant listed but then the book would be larger and so undoubtedly more expensive. However the best part of the book is the writing: in every description and instruction Evison manages to convey not only his expert knowledge but also love and enthusiasm for these wonderful plants.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

THE WELL-DESIGNED MIXED GARDEN Building Beds and Borders with Trees, Shrubs, Perennials, Annuals and Bulbs

Tracy DiSabato-Aust, Timber Press, ISBN 978-0-88192-967-6, Softback, Published November 2009, RRP £20.00

The Well-Designed Mixed Garden

As a designer I have read my fair share of books on how to design with plants and I was doubtful that yet another publication could add much more to the subject. I was also sceptical that a publication written by an American author for an American audience would have anything useful to say. Thank goodness I gave this book chance.

In Britain we tend to take gardens planted with a mixture of trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs etc for granted. Seen as being relatively low-maintenance, over the years this style of planting has become increasingly popular. I was therefore very surprised to read that this is only the second book published in the US that directly deals with mixed planting (although on reflection I have no idea how many have been published here). Perhaps it is this ‘newness’ that has led to Tracy giving the subject a great deal of consideration. She writes about colour like an artist and understands its use in all its dimensions.

Most people with even just a passing interest in colour in the garden will already know about the colour wheel with its complementary and contrasting colours and how using pale or bold colours can help to manipulate the apparent size of the space but Tracy expands this topic to cover hue, value and intensity - all vital elements to understanding how best to use plants in the garden. The extensive section on colour is perhaps not for the complete beginner as it may be overwhelming. I found myself re-reading parts to fully take in the information but perhaps that says more about me than the book! Tracy explains about primary, secondary and tertiary hues and how they relate to each other; the difference between a tint (contains more white) and a shade (contains more black) with tints having a high value and shades a low value with value representing the amount of light reflected; and that intensity refers to the brightness or grayness of a colour so making a plant either colourful or dull. Of course the type of colour is only just the beginning as colour can be affected by light, distance and interactions with other colours. Descriptions of different types of colour schemes from monochromatic (one colour) to polychromatic (every colour) are accompanied by excellent photographic examples and simple watercolour paintings show how colours blend together.

Having gone into a lot of detail on colour, I do feel the important subject of texture and form has been glossed over. Perhaps we are more advanced in Britain in our use of this style of planting and therefore are more interested in the vital part texture and form plays in creating a garden of interest. Likewise the section on how to draw a planting plan is fine with some useful tips but the actual planting plan example is not finished to recognised professional standard in this country and perhaps has been aimed at the amateur gardener. However I do like the watercolour illustrated plans, plant lists and photographs that accompany her real life designs. These are followed by twenty-seven different plant combinations each with a beautiful large colour photograph and full description of the plants used, their requirements and maintenance issues.

The book finishes with three large appendices in which some information is more helpful than others. The list of scientific and common names is not particularly useful to us in Britain as many of the common names are unheard of here. In contrast the list of plants and their design characteristics could be something I refer to a lot in future. Not only does it list plants in alphabetical order providing the usual information such as height and width but also design colour ie warm or cool. It then goes on to list the plants under their colour and time of flowering, warm or cool colour schemes, different types of texture and form, height and many others (although the one on plants good for hummingbirds probably doesn’t apply!).

To sum up – this book was a very pleasant surprise. The author is an accomplished plantswoman and designer and her enthusiasm for planting design shines through in her writing.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

THE ROCK GARDEN PLANT PRIMER Easy, Small Plants for Containers, Patios and the Open Garden

Christopher Grey-Wilson, ISBN 978-0-88192-928-7, Hardback, Published November 2009, RRP £20.00

The Rock Garden Plant Primer

If you think you need rocks to grow rock plants or an alpine slope to grow alpines then think again. This publication shows just how easy to grow some of these plants can be. In fact quite a number described are very common, hardy plants found in gardens around the country such as Alchemilla mollis and Campanula carpatica. In fact, this is the whole point of the book.

Grey-Wilson is trying to show just how easy many of the plants are and provides a handy list at the end giving examples of plants for sun or shade, moist or dry conditions etc. In his main introduction he details the best conditions for most rock garden plants and ways to grow them that do not include rocks - ordinary raised beds can be utilised as well as the more normal stone troughs etc.

The A-Z section takes up most of the book and is full of easy-to-read plant descriptions accompanied by many excellent photographs. Grey-Wilson has a wealth of experience with these plants and has been editor of the Alpine Garden Society since 1990 so who better to tempt the rest of us into growing more of these wonderful little plants.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

THE NEW LOW-MAINTENANCE GARDEN How to Have a Beautiful, Productive Garden the Time to Enjoy It

Valerie Easton, Photographs by Jacqueline M Koch, ISBN 978-0-88192-916-4, Hardback, Published January 2010, RRP £20.00

The New Low Maintenance Garden

It must be a rare event for a client to ask a designer for a high-maintenance garden. Most want to spend time in the garden but would prefer it to involve a bottle of wine rather than weeding yet they still want a beautiful garden filled with plants. As we all know a no-maintenance garden simply does not exist and most low-maintenance examples still require work but it is the type of work, how long it takes and with what results that is critical.

Easton herself was once quite happy to spend all of her spare time working in her garden with the help of her husband, but when he finally decided enough was enough Valerie also realised that perhaps there were other things she too could be enjoying. Even the most enthusiastic gardener can be overtaken by age and realise that digging, dividing and pruning are no longer quite as easy as they used to be.

The principles are simple but you may need an iron will to stick to them. For example a main planting principle is to only use a few of the plants you love the most so impulse buying at garden centres is completely out of the question! Easton is firmly of the opinion that ‘effective low-maintenance is all about design’ and that without giving thought to the hard-landscape and architectural elements first the garden is unlikely to be successful. Materials should be of good quality and if necessary, rather than do a whole garden cheaply it would be better to work on a smaller area and get that right.

Following the explanation of her design principles Easton includes profiles of gardens that are examples of modern low-maintenance techniques that range in style from ornamental to productive, use a variety of materials and fulfil different requirements. Although all the gardens are in the US the principles and (most of) the plants used can be transferred to UK gardens. Sites are often small (and I do actually mean small) and the owners are a mixture of those who have brought in an expert to help with the design and those who have done it themselves. Each garden is accompanied by photographs some of which are a little dark (perhaps the weather was not kind) but the subject matter illustrates the text well.

Each chapter concludes with a section on Resources, but as they are written for the US market some will be of no use in the UK but others may be of interest such as www.raingardennetwork.com. Finishing off the publication is a handy section on the best plant choices. Again, although this has to be read with the knowledge that it was written for the US market (the section on bamboos does not include the normal specimens often suggested for the UK garden) the majority of plants are good suggestions for our gardens.

Overall, this is one of the best ‘written for the US but also sold in the UK’ garden books. Its principles apply just as well here and most of the information given can be translated to our gardens. Easton speaks from first-hand experience of creating her own low-maintenance garden following a house move and this gives the reader confidence in the writer. I myself having been thinking for some time about changing part of my garden and will refer to this book when deciding on the design and planting.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

GARDENING WITH SHAPE, LINE AND TEXTURE A Plant Design Sourcebook

Linden Hawthorne, Timber Press, ISBN 978-0-88192-888-4, Hardback, Published November 2009, RRP £25.00

Gardening with Shape, Line and Texture

Creating a successful planting scheme is one of the most challenging aspects of garden design. Novice designers can find planting plans quite time consuming as they build up their knowledge of how plants work in combination and those with more experience are always on the lookout for new inspiration. This publication is sure to help everyone.

The introductory section details the theory behind Linden’s planting including an explanation of Divine Proportion, also known as the Golden Ratio. I will leave it to you to read as it involves mathematics which was never my strong point! She also explains what is meant by vocabulary such as unity, contrast and rhythm and how to use plants in different garden styles.

The vast majority of the book is a list of over 800 plants innovatively catalogued using headings such as Clouds and Transparents, Arcs and Fountains as well as the more usual Verticals and Diagonals. Most plants will be familiar to knowledgeable gardeners but it is Linden’s excellent descriptions including the best way to use them in a garden that make it such a useful publication. The accompanying photographs are of high quality and illustrate the best characteristics of the plant.

I really liked this book and found it an informative and refreshing read and would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for inspiration in their planting.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

THE PRUNING OF TREES, SHRUBS AND CONIFERS Second Edition

George E Brown, Revised by Tony Kirkham, Timber Press, ISBN 978-1-60469-002-6, Softback, Published 2009, RRP £14.99

The Pruning of Trees, Shrubs, and Conifers

This may not be a brand new book, having its original publication in 1972 but it has become one of the most influential examples of its genre. This second edition has been revised by Tony Kirkham, Head of Arboretum at Kew Gardens and an expert on woody plants.

Among the many topics covered are why a plant might need to be pruned and the best technique for ensuring a healthy, good-looking specimen. Other sections include pruning in special circumstances such as windy locations and prevention of snow damage. Examples of good and bad pruning are illustrated by colour photographs. There is a substantial list of genera and methods of pruning for each, along with a useful appendix on tools and equipment.

Since its first publication our knowledge of what is best for plants has advanced. For those old enough to remember when the recommendation was for a cut to be followed by the application of a protective sealant there is an explanation of why that is no longer required. Other updates include the most important new plant introductions and information on pests, diseases and pruning for wildlife.

Perhaps for a casual gardener who is unfamiliar with plants this book might seem too ‘serious’ however any keen amateur or professional would find it invaluable.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

PARKS, PLANTS, AND PEOPLE Beautifying the Urban Landscape

Lynden B Miller, Norton, ISBN 978-0-39373-203-0, Hardback, Published November 2009, RRP £35.00

Parks, Plants and People

The majority of British gardeners may never have heard of Lynden B Miller but the city of New York and its inhabitants owe a lot to this artist turned designer. When a friend on the New York public parks committee asked her to restore the neglected Conservatory Garden in Central Park it was the beginning of a new career in the restoration and creation of public spaces. Not only was she asked to restore the planting but also raise the money and encourage people to make use of the space; all of which Lynden achieved with phenomenal success.

Located at the northern end of Central Park, the Conservatory Garden was known to be a dangerous place, favoured by drug dealers and general low-lives. However Lynden worked to the principle that if parks are attractive places to be, people will want to use them and the more people that use a park the safer it will become. Indeed this was proved to be the case and the Garden quickly became a bustling, family oriented space with not a drug-dealer in sight! Not only that, the local area began to regenerate with new business moving in and local residents taking an interest and pride in their surroundings.

In this publication Lynden looks at some of the projects she has worked on in New York and through these gives the reader an insight into how the spaces were conceived, transformed and affected the surrounding areas. There is also much practical advice including types of plants to use, soil improvement, examples of good signage and the provision of seating and rubbish bins! Any designer asked to create a public space would be advised to read this book before putting pencil to paper.

It might be a good idea to make this compulsory reading for all mayors, county, town and local councillors and anyone else who might have a say in our towns and cities. I doubt all of society’s problems can be solved by creating public gardens but the success of New York and garden cities such as Chicago should be an inspiration. Having been to both I know how wonderful it is to walk down city streets and come across small oases in the middle of a concrete jungle. Chicago especially has the most wonderful street planting that lifts the spirits and I would highly recommend a visit for any gardening enthusiast. All should note that properties in areas surrounding these parks often experienced a substantial increase in value, sometimes as soon as a park restoration was announced!

Some of Lynden’s advice on subjects such as fund raising and recruiting volunteers are specific to the USA where volunteering is commonplace and wealthy American families often donate large sums of money to worthy causes. However, the general principles could perhaps be tweaked to suit our way of working or perhaps we need to change our mindset and be more open to new ideas. Interestly, most of the recommended plants for use in public spaces would also do well in our climate so the plant lists are a handy resource.

Having read this book from cover to cover, what I came away with was a great feeling of positivity and that has to be as good a reason as any to recommend this book to all my gardening friends.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

THE EXPLORER’S GARDEN Shrubs and Vines from the Four Corners of the World

Daniel J Hinkley, Timber Press, ISBN 978-0-88192-918-8, Hardback, Published September 2009, RRP £25.00

The Explorers Garden

One might be forgiven for thinking that in today’s shrinking world there are no more habitats left to explore or plants to discover, and if that is the case, then obviously there can be no plant hunters. Daniel J Hinkley is proof this cannot be true. For decades he has been travelling the world, studying plants in their natural habitats and returning home to the USA with seeds to propagate and evaluate.

It is now ten years since he published THE EXPLORER’S GARDEN Rare and Unusual Perennials, (recently reproduced in paperback, ISBN 978-0-88192-917-1, RRP £14.99) and this latest publication forms an excellent companion. Oozing out of each page is his love and passion for plants and the enthusiasm for travelling to world to see them in their natural surroundings.

Right plant, right place is a phrase all garden designers will have heard many times. If you know where a plant chooses to grow in the wild you will also understand where it can be successfully grown in the garden environment. Hinkley beautifully describes each plant, its habitat and his experiences of propagation and subsequent growth. He passes on this knowledge in the form of practical advice to enable all gardeners to successfully cultivate their own plants. Each of these publications include plant families that are recognised by most gardeners such as Hydrangea, Berberis and Geranium.

These are not boring text books, but beautifully written stories of plants, their histories and the expeditions to find them. Anyone keen to learn more about the origins of the shrubs and perennials available in garden centres should either embark on a round the world trip or alternatively read one or both of these books!

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

WILDLIFE GARDENING

Rhoda Nottridge, The Crowood Press, ISBN 978-1-84797-098-5, Softback, Published 2009, RRP £14.99

Wildlife Gardening

Wildlife gardening is a huge topic and at 138 pages no book could possibly include everything you need to know but Rhoda Nottridge has certainly done her best to give the reader a good start.

Topics range from assessing an existing site (its soil, aspect, biodiversity etc) to wildlife hotels and from pest deterrent plants to bird tables and feeders. Rhoda writes in an easy style, giving lots of practical information not only on how to attract beneficial wildlife but also how to sensitively discourage any unwanted visitors. Basic information on creating meadows, water features and hedgerows along with how to construct items such as homes for hedgehogs and bee boxes make this book a good starting point for anyone wanting to turn their garden into a wildlife haven. Plant lists are not extensive, but provide a sound basis for the new wildlife gardener.

This publication will prove useful both to anyone undertaking research as part of a garden design course or gardeners looking at wildlife gardening for the first time.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

THE ORGANIC GARDENER’S HANDBOOK

Michael Littlewood, Crowood Press, ISBN 978-1-861269-36-2, Paperback, RRP £16.99

The Organic Gardener's Handbook

First published in 2007 this surely has to be seen as the vegetable and fruit grower’s bible. Michael Littlewood is one of this country’s foremost experts in sustainable land use and writes with the courage of his convictions.

But this ‘bible’ does not preach, it merely gives the reader all the information they need to be a successful organic gardener – and I do mean ‘all’ the information. At first sight the reader could be forgiven for thinking it looks a bit complicated, with tables, graphs and charts being used to illustrate issues such as nutrient availability, monthly harvest times and organic controls. However, when read in detail everything is clearly and succinctly explained in a style that is both informative and interesting.

Despite growing up with a granddad who grew vegetables for a living, it is only now I’ve reached a more ‘mature’ age that I have decided to try growing my own. So far I’ve only done it on a very small scale, squeezing in a few carrots, lettuce etc in space where a shrub had become overgrown and removed. My runner beans have been a particular success and I am now considering converting more of the garden for this purpose. If I go ahead with the plan I am certain this publication will be my constant companion. It really does seem to cover everything I need to know including all the usual topics such as plot layouts, crop rotation, companion planting and pest controls. Littlewood also looks in depth at areas sometimes glossed over by other writers such as soils and nutrients. A section on green manures is far more extensive than most and he even explains the concept of lunar gardening (the belief that edible plants would benefit if planted in harmony with the phases and cycles of the Moon).

Over the last few years designers have found more and more clients asking for a vegetable patch to be included in their garden. Many have never grown their own food before and Michael Littlewood’s excellent book would be the one I would recommend to give them the best start possible.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

GARDENING ON CLAY

Peter Jones, Crowood Press, ISBN978-1-84797-081-7, Paperback, RRP £14.99

Gardening on ClayPeter Jones is a highly experienced gardener, having originally trained at Cambridge Botanic Gardens and RHS Wisley and worked as head gardener at locations such as Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire and Leonardslee in Sussex. So, having clay soil myself, I had high expectations that this book would provide new solutions to the challenges this can bring – baked dry in summer and saturated in winter (and some summers too)!

Unfortunately, apart from lining planting holes with lots of wet newspaper to help retain moisture I found nothing new or exciting, but perhaps that was not the aim of this book. For anyone new to gardening on clay this publication has all the basics you need to know: when to dig, when to mulch etc etc and a plant list that would set the new gardener off in the right direction. The book is laid out well with sections that include practical advice on cultivation and general planting with separate chapters for different types of trees, shrubs, perennials etc that thrive on clay soils. It was very pleasing to find a section for vegetables, herbs and fruit: a subject that in the past may not have been included in a general gardening book but one that is now very much in vogue.

One of the biggest disappointments is the overall look of the publication which is somewhat old-fashioned. Many of the photographs are dull and lifeless and not always in focus, with colour reproduction sometimes giving pictures strange hues (one lawn definitely has a blue tinge to it). Some examples of gardens appear to be taken from the 1970s with straight narrow borders filled with showy annuals. It was very obvious that the photos illustrating the section on roses had been taken by a different photographer and indeed they were supplied by David Austin Roses.

Overall, a useful book for the novice gardener but it would not be first on my list.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

TALL PERENNIALS Larger-than-Life Plants for Gardens of All Sizes

Roger Turner, Timber Press, ISBN 978-0-88192-889-1, Hardback, Published August 2009, RRP £25.00

Tall PerennialsIn his Preface Turner says ‘Space is a question of priorities. Just because your garden is small, there is no logic that compels you to have only low-growing plants.’ Many designers will agree with this but with most clients wanting a low-maintenance garden, it is only too easy to avoid the taller perennials that may require extra work in maintenance and staking. However this publication highlights the benefits of such plants and encourages the reader to consider the possibilities.

The first sections in the book cover plant relationships, border design and methods of cultivation. If your aim is to plant a traditional border then this will cover much of what you need to know. However if you would like to know more about using perennials in a more current style, such as New Wave Perennial, then you will be disappointed.

It could perhaps be said that the rest of the book is divided up into too many sections. These include Architectural, Foliage and Ferns, Umbellifers, Ornamental Grasses, Restios and Equisetums, Flower Spikes, Daisy Flowers, and chapters on Early, Midseason and Late Perennials. However designers might find it useful to be able to go straight to a ‘style’ of plant rather than sift through a whole book to find what they are looking for.

My biggest disappointment is the overall style of the book. The layout that is lack-lustre and the photographs are good but dull. Nothing stands out on the page and with such magnificent plants as subjects this is a great pity.

However, you should not be put off by these negative comments. With more than 600 plants featured in some detail there is bound to be a plant for every ‘tall’ situation.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

THE ESSENTIAL GARDEN DESIGN WORKBOOK – Second Edition

Rosemary Alexander, Timber Press, ISBN 978-0-88192-975-1, Softback, Published August 2009, RRP £25.00

The Essential Garden Design WorkshopRosemary Alexander is the founder and Principal of The English Gardening School at the Chelsea Physic Garden in London, one of the premier garden design schools in the country. She also writes and lectures around the world on garden design. This background and expertise has resulted in a publication that provides practical information in a clear and interesting style. There are plenty of excellent illustrations and some very nice colour photographs that complement the text. Everything you would find on a good design course is covered and although you can never replace a good lecturer with a book, this has to be an excellent substitute.

Many of the new and expanded sections of this Second Edition are associated with sustainability and ec0-design and include using grey water, water storage, the environmental issues surrounding concrete and gravel and new planting styles (including sustainable, productive, arid, native and naturalistic). These new features bring the book right up-to-date with latest thinking in how we should be designing gardens for a changing climate.

This book provides enough knowledge for the ordinary gardener to produce a professional design for their garden and also makes very useful additional reading material for anyone undertaking a design course, especially for those who may be studying at home on their own.

Anyone already owning the first edition who keeps up-to-date with latest gardening news probably need not go out and replace it. However for all those who want to design their own gardens or complete a course successfully should definitely add this to their library.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

COTONEASTERS

Jeanette Fryer and Bertil Hylmő, Timber Press, ISBN 978-0-88192-927-0, Hardback, Published July 2009, RRP £30.00

CotoneastersFor anyone serious about their Cotoneasters this is the book for them. Written for both horticulturalists and botanists, it covers the classification, identification, cultivation and nomenclature of 460 species and cultivars.

Over a period of 40 years Hylmő (who died in 2001) developed an exceptional living and herbarium collection of Cotoneaster at his home in Sweden and created a classification system for the genus. Fryer, under the tutelage of her fellow author as well as other specialists in the field is now an internationally recognised authority on the genus and checks specimens in the world’s herbaria, describing new collections from the wild as well as maintaining a national collection in her garden and her family nursery.

As well as full descriptions of the species and features of cultivars there are 200 colour photographs to help with identification. The index includes every known name published from common names to synonyms and misnomers and aims to be the most comprehensive listing yet published.

This is a serious publication that will prove useful from professional horticulturalists to committed enthusiast. It is not a coffee table book but nevertheless is readable, practical and last but not least, scientifically accurate.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

HIDCOTE – THE MAKING OF A GARDEN (Second Edition)

Ethne Clarke, Norton, ISBN 978-0-393-73267-2, Published July 2009, RRP £25.00

Hidcote - The Making of a GardenHidcote, created by Major Lawrence Johnston, is widely regarded as one of, if not the most influential English gardens of the twentieth century. It set the course of garden design for the following 80 years. In 1948 it was the first garden taken on by the National Trust.

Originally published in 1989, the book was the first biography of Johnston and required much detective work as he appears not to have kept any journals or written information about his life or the garden. Since the first edition however, his social diaries have been found and new information has come to light about his genealogy. Also several years after publication a former gardener at Hidcote contacted Clarke and shared his memories of Hidcote and Lawrence Johnston and went on to be an advisor for the garden restoration. Of course methods of research have changed over the last 20 years and online assistance from institutions in America and the UK has been invaluable to providing new knowledge of the man and his garden.

This book gives a fascinating insight into the world of the most eminent gardeners of the time, setting Johnston and Hidcote in the context of the period. It follows his life, the creation of the garden and the transition from private to public garden in the care of the National Trust. A chapter is dedicated to how the Trust dealt with this new project – the first of its kind for them and follows the story from difficult beginnings to the successful garden it is today. There is also new information about Johnston’s other major work, Serre de la Madonne in the south of France, now a French national monument.

For anyone interested in the history of English gardens and garden design this will make fascinating reading and those who may have purchased the original 20 years ago are likely to find this new edition worth the investment.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

SHED CHIC

Sally Coulthard, Jacqui Small, ISBN978-1-90641-718-5, Hardback, Published 5 April 2009, RRP £25.00

Shed Chic The Oxford English Dictionary defines a shed as a wooden building used for storage, shelter of animals etc or as a workshop. When I think of a shed, I picture a wooden building full of compost, tools, pots and machinery, usually with a few resident spiders - the structures featured in this book do not look like that!

It is likely that in today’s economic climate garden designers will increasingly find clients need not just a shed for the lawnmower but also an outdoor building to be used as an office, studio or even additional accommodation. Sally Coulthard features a range of building styles to suit a variety of purposes; from a large ultra modern eco garden office to a small potting shed, from a guest room to a playhouse.

Most useful to the garden designer is the final section on Planning Your Shed which discusses factors such as orientation and weather, access, planning permission and boundary issues.

This is definitely a publication aimed more at the interior designer, but garden designers should find it useful as a reference for different styles of building for a range of uses that can be used in an outdoor space.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

GREEN FLOWERS

Alison Hoblyn, Photographs by Marie O’Hara, Timber Press, ISBN 978-0-88192-919-5, Hardback, Published April 2009, RRP £16.99

Green FlowersIt is very common for designers to look for green foliage plants to provide a background for more colourful planting in their designs. However green flowers can also act in a similar way, giving the eye somewhere to rest between loud colours that otherwise might clash with each other. As with foliage, green flowers come in many different shades with tones of blue, yellow, black or red adding to the interest. Hoblyn showcases not only true flowers but also plants with green bracts or modified leaves that give the impression of flowers.

I do have issues with some of the choices; some commonly-known examples are not included while others are not perhaps the variety that most obviously springs to mind (why choose Euphorbia lathyris when there are other more striking examples?). In other cases I am yet to be convinced of their ‘green-ness’, for example to my eyes Aquilegia viridiflora ‘Chocolate Soldier’ is definitely more chocolate than green and I have always thought of Echinops as blue/grey. However we all see colour in subtly different ways so perhaps it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

The information on each choice is very informative (although you do need to know your USDA hardiness zones) and the full page photographs are often striking and highlight not just the range of colour within ‘green’ but also the huge range of form; giving the designer yet another reason for considering their use within a garden.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

50 HIGH-IMPACT, LOW-CARE GARDEN PLANTS

Tracy DiSabato-Aust, Timber Press, ISBN978-0-88192-950-8, Paperback, Published March 2009, RRP £9.99

50 High-Impact, Low-Care Garden PlantsMany in the UK may not have heard of Tracy DiSabato-Aust but in the USA she is a well-known garden designer and writer. Experienced gardeners will be familiar with most of the chosen 50 although there are the occasional more unusual selections that may not be available in this country. Tracy uses her extensive experience to provide the reader with useful tips on how each plant behaves and the best way to use it. The text is accompanied by a full page photograph and a handy low-maintenance checklist which makes it easy to select plants for specific benefits such as drought-tolerance or no staking.

For each plant there is a ‘Tracy’s Notes’ panel giving a brief description, hardiness, height and spread, sun and shade needs and planting combinations. Unfortunately it is here in particular that it becomes apparent the book is aimed mainly at the US market: height and spread details are given in imperial measurements with no metric alternatives; US hardiness zones are used but there is no key to what these mean; the suggestions for planting companions are listed only by common names, some of which may not be unfamiliar to British gardeners. I did not know what a Rattlesnake master was until I spotted it printed underneath Eryngium yuccifolium on that plant’s own page.

Overall this is an interesting well-written publication giving anecdotal information not found in the standard reference books. However novice gardeners may find the US-based terminology confusing.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

PERENNIAL COMPANIONS – 100 DAZZLING PLANT COMBINATIONS FOR EVERY SEASON

Tom Fischer, Photographs by Richard and Adrian Bloom, Timber Press, ISBN 978-0-88192-939-3, Paperback, Published May 2009, RRP £7.99

Perennial Companions At only 16x18cm this is not the biggest book in the world but it certainly manages to pack in plenty of useful information. Most UK gardeners will be familiar with the Bloom family name and many of the photographs by Richard and Adrian have been taken at their own gardens in Bressingham, Suffolk. These photos beautifully illustrate excellent planting combinations with each being given a double-page spread; one page uses a full size photograph with the other having a smaller photo with a key to planting, plant care information and a short discussion of why the combination is successful.

Each plant is named but unfortunately common names are listed first with the Latin names in brackets. As this book seems to be mainly aimed at the American market these common names would often be unknown to UK gardeners. Typically with American books, hardiness information is given in terms of US zones, however there is a key at the back which can be used to identify where the UK and its own temperatures would fit. A key to light and moisture requirements is also included on each information page.

Due to its seasonal layout it would be possible to use this book to plan a whole series of planting schemes that would take the garden from one end of the year to another. The four main seasons have themselves been broken down into early to mid, early to late, mid, and mid to late etc that should help with plant design even further.

Although this book is a little confusing (an American writer giving US-based information with most photographs being of English gardens taken by English photographers) it is still a good source of inspiration for new planting schemes.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

THE NATURAL GARDEN HANDBOOK

Caroline Foley, New Holland, ISBN 978-1-84773-434-1, Hardback, Published 1 April 2009, RRP £12.99

The Natural Garden Handbook The key focus of this book is biodiversity; how to provide habitats that will sustain as much wildlife as possible. Many of our bird and plant species have declined in number over the past 20 years and in the last 200 years over 230 invertebrate species have become extinct. This is not good! So with 15 million gardens taking up around 2 million acres of space, Caroline Foley believes gardeners are in a position to make a real difference.

I am sure she is right, however I feel the majority of ‘ordinary’ garden owners will feel unable to put many of her ideas into practice. This is not because they are bad but because they need space, a lot of effort and may not always be visually appealing. For example, to make a wildflower meadow from fertile soil Foley recommends you need to ‘take drastic action’ - this means scraping off the topsoil. I may be wrong but I cannot see many owners of suburban gardens going to these lengths. The reader is also advised, if they have to cut down a tree, to leave a substantial stump with jagged cuts to make ‘niche habitats for decaying wood organisms’. Again, this is not particularly attractive in a small garden environment.

A very useful section is provided on British native plants. This is a very comprehensive list and although it does not give any information on the individual plants, this can easily be researched elsewhere.

This book would be perfect for anyone with a larger plot of land who wishes to turn it over to natural planting and wildlife. For those with smaller plots, whether they live in the countryside or town, it is harder to pick out much information that relates easily to their circumstance but nevertheless it is still an interesting read.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

NATURAL GARDEN STYLE – GARDENING INSPIRED BY NATURE

Noël Kingsbury, Photography by Nicola Browne, Merrell, ISBN 978-1-8589-4443-2, Hardback, Published 2 April 2009, RRP £29.95

Natural Garden Style This book proved to be an inspirational read. At first glance, with many of the photographs featuring large-scale landscapes or parts of large gardens I was unsure how relevant it might be to those gardening and designing in urban or small gardens. However I feel anyone interested in sustainability, natural planting and using natural materials will find plenty of ideas to incorporate into their own designs.

Noël Kingsbury is a leading gardening writer, lecturer and garden designer who is keen to promote ecological and naturalistic planting in garden design. In this publication he considers the meaning of ‘natural garden style’ and how plants and materials can be used to create gardens that blend with the natural environment and encourage wildlife to flourish.

The introduction alone makes fascinating reading and manages to explain ‘in a nutshell’ all the key elements of natural garden style. Chapters feature topics such as meadows, prairies, woodland and water and detail how each works in the natural environment and then relates this knowledge to today’s modern garden. Sections include useful lists of recommended plants and many of the excellent photographs also provide information on the planting illustrated.

I think this book will prove to be a source of inspiration for many years to come not just for garden designers but also for anyone interested in the wider landscape and it’s relationship to the urban environment. (It was also nice to see that this book featuring sustainable ideals was printed on wood-free paper).

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

THE BOOK OF WEEDS

Ken Thompson, Dorling Kindersley, ISBN 978-1-4053-3554-6, Hardback, Published 1 April 2009, RRP £12.99

The Book Of Weeds

If there’s one thing every garden has, it’s weeds. So theoretically every gardener should find this book very useful. But can a book on weeds be interesting?

Somehow Ken Thompson, plant ecologist and senior lecturer at the University of Sheffield, has managed to turn what could have been quite a dry topic, into an excellent and entertaining read. He discusses what makes a plant a weed, looks at how they spread and gives advice on how not to confuse weed seedlings with those of your future prize vegetables and ornamentals. He even tries to find positive things to say about weeds; for example did you know that crops in weedy plots suffer less from pests than those in clean, weed-free soil? Of course the negatives do manage to outweigh the positives: the pest-free crops will not be so healthy due to the competition for space, water and nutrients. So we definitely need to know how to prevent or cure a weed invasion and Thompson gives a whole range of solutions using a chemical-free approach.

Nearly half the book is given over to a ‘Rogues’ Gallery’ with photographs of the offenders and information on why they are so successful and what to do to solve the problem. Thompson also gives warning of some plants commonly sold in garden centres and nurseries that may also turn into garden thugs such as Hypericum calycinum and Vinca minor.

With the sun shining today I have just come in from one of the first major spring tidy-ups in the garden and can safely say I am very good at growing weeds. At least now, with Ken Thompson’s help, I can identify the little blighters!

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

THE ROYAL HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY ENCYCLOPEDIA OF GARDEN DESIGN

Editor-in-Chief Chris Young, Dorling Kindersley, ISBN 978-1-4053-2905-7, Hardback, Published 1 April 2009, RRP £25.00

Encyclopedia of Garden Design

This is a beautifully illustrated, well-written book – exactly what we’ve come to expect from any RHS Encyclopedia – that would make the perfect present for anyone considering entering a career in garden design or for the keen amateur gardener who would like to extend their knowledge.

The format is clear and concise and provides information on all subject areas required in order to design a garden; from creating views to building structures, from choosing materials to planting techniques. Dorling Kindersley always excel in the visual impact of their books and this is no exception. The photographs perfectly illustrate each different technique, style or process and look stunning on the page.

Even designers already within the profession may well find the substantial section on Style useful and interesting with each being succinctly described and illustrated. With eight pages dedicated to every style there is ample room to explore the key design elements and show modern interpretations of the theme including plans and photographs of gardens recently created by some of today’s top designers. Each designer gives a short explanation of the brief and explains their solutions along with examples of plants used in the scheme. The range covered is extensive and includes the usual formal, cottage and urban and also looks at trends that are the latest hot-topic: sustainability and food production.

My only criticism is in the more practical elements such as construction. For example backfilling a path edging with soil is not normally considered best practice. The contributors to the book are of the highest calibre, including Andrew Wilson, one of the country’s leading designers and Richard Sneesby, who runs a garden design degree course at University College, Falmouth. However there appears to be no specialist hard landscaping contractor, which seems a pity.

To combine all the elements of garden design in one book is a tall order. Many of the topics could be (and have been) turned into whole books in themselves but this publication has managed to distil the information into a manageable and useful format. It looks good, is easy to read and understand and will provide a great starting point for any potential designer, professional or otherwise.

For a chance to win a copy of The RHS Encyclopedia of Garden Design please click here and complete your details. Closing date for entries is 31 March 2009.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

THE ENGLISH ROSES

David Austin, Conran Octopus, ISBN 1-84091-447-5, Hardback, RRP £30.00

The English Roses

David Austin and his eldest son own one of Britain’s leading rose nurseries with more than 1.2 million roses grown for sale every year. David is the creator of the English Rose, a completely new style of rose that first came to prominence in the 1970s and has since achieved international recognition.

In this book David takes a look at the history of the rose from pre-Christianity to modern times, and why the flower has become so loved all around the world.

David’s aim as a breeder was to develop a new style of rose that combined the best qualities of the old and modern so giving strong, disease-resistant plants with a large range of colour that would flower repeatedly. The reader is taken on a journey that gives an insight into the knowledge, time and effort required to produce a top quality new plant.

Forming a large chunk of the book, the ‘Gallery of English Roses’ consists of full-page colour photographs of gorgeous sprays and individual blooms with accompanying descriptions. These photographs certainly make a big impression with adjectives such as ‘yummy’ and ‘sumptuous’ springing to mind. David’s descriptions are particularly interesting, as he has tried to be ‘as honest as I possibly can’. So not only does he detail the plants’ best attributes he also mentions anything he feels is a weakness and leaves it up to the reader to weigh up the priorities for their own garden.

With useful information on how to use the English Rose in the garden and the house, examples of great rose gardens to visit and advice on plant care this book really does cover the story from beginning to end and also provides the reader with a glimpse of what might be possible in the future.

Perhaps I should now admit to not being a rose lover (almost blasphemy in this country) - too much disease, too many painful thorns, not enough fragrance and ugly during the winter. Many of these attributes I now realise belong to other forms of rose and are the reason why David wanted to create something better. I think I may have been converted!

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

1000 GARDEN IDEAS

Stafford Cliff, Quadrille Publishing Ltd, ISBN 978-1844007080, Paperback, Published 6 March 2009, RRP £14.99

1000 Garden IdeasStafford Cliff is a man with an eye for detail. Not only is he the designer of the very first habitat catalogues (probably collectors' items by now), but in 1974 he also designed Terance Conran's 'The House Book', the forerunner of all the interior design books that have weighed down our coffee tables ever since.

For the past 40 years he has been taking photos of garden detail and has put 1000 of these photos together. It is an impressive resource in terms of sheer numbers of photos that have never been published before, and is ideal if you are short on inspiration. It would also work well as something that could be taken along by a designer to illustrate their ideas to a client for a particular feature, or to get a feel for a clients likes and dislikes.

All the main categories of garden feature are covered, from paths and patios to water features and topiary. Very few contemporary style gardens, mainly traditional-style features though. My favourite chapter is ‘Vistas’, showing that there are many delightful ways to carry the eye through the garden.

The downside of such a cornucopia is that displaying so many images in one book means they become rather overwhelming and ever so slightly indigestible. There are typically 10 to 15 images per page, all uniform in size and subject, so the eye tires quickly. The picture quality is inconsistent too. After all these are personal snaps, and that’s something that gives the book a slightly dated feel.

Nevertheless, if you are looking for a source book of garden features to dip into for inspiration then you are unlikely to find more ideas in one place. The list of suppliers at the back of the book is also comprehensive and informative.

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© Julie Wilson
Guest Reviewer from Outerspaces Garden Design

DREAM GARDENS: 100 INSPIRATIONAL GARDENS

Tania Compton and Andrew Lawson, Merrell, ISBN 978-1-8589-4486-9, Paperback, Published 16 February 2009, RRP £18.95

Dream Gardens: 100 Inspirational GardensTo be honest, at first I wasn’t sure about this publication. After the first quick flip-through my initial impression was it's just another pretty picture book – I have now changed my mind!

Tania Compton has written text for each garden that gives the reader (as appropriate to each site) an insight into its history, design ideals, planting choices and much more; giving each a very personal feel. Gardens featured include those of designers such as Dan Pearson, Arabella Lennox-Boyd and Penelope Hobhouse. Penelope’s own garden is featured over four pages and the reader is told it has been designed with retirement in mind and that when the time is right the infill planting can be ‘swept away to leave a magical outline of evergreen topiary, hedges, trees and shrubs’. Looking at the photographs of this beautiful garden with its stunning planting I think the day it’s all ‘swept away’ will be a very sad one.

Most of the gardens featured are very traditional – from formal topiary to country cottage – there are few truly contemporary gardens. However one of my favourites does appear; The Woodyard designed by Ann Pearce, which over recent times has become a favourite of publishers.

Andrew Lawson’s photographs (of which there are over 600) are stunning and illustrate the essence of each garden beautifully. The gardens are laid out by seasons: winter into spring, spring into summer and summer into autumn. This could be useful to the designer as many photographs illustrate wonderful planting schemes and all come with very informative captions often including plant names.

As the title suggests, they are all inspirational gardens, but I wonder how they were chosen. Perhaps the author living in Wiltshire has a bearing on the fact that approximately half are located below a line roughly drawn from Gloucester to Chelmsford. The north of England and Scotland have seven, Ireland has one and Wales none with a few others in-between. Obviously climate and financial circumstance (most gardens featured are on the large side) play a part in where beautiful gardens can be created and it is up to the reader whether they are bothered by this imbalance. There is also a smattering of gardens from mainland Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. Again they all great gardens but I wonder why they were included. Personally I would have preferred to see either all British gardens or a wider range of world gardens.

The book’s title has it right - they are dream gardens - but as with any such book I am sure every reader will wonder why their own particular favourites weren’t included. Some will question why such iconic gardens as Sissinghurst or Hidcote don’t appear. My feeling is that we’ve all seen them many times before and will do so again in the future.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

RHS ENCYCLOPEDIA OF GARDEN PLANTS

Editor-in-Chief Christopher Brickell, Dorling Kindersley, ISBN 978-1-4053-3296-5, Published 2008, RRP £60.00

RHS Encyclopedia Of Garden PlantsThis has to be one of the most important books for anyone from the keen amateur gardener to the professional garden designer. Containing over 15,500 plant descriptions this publication is the most comprehensive encyclopedia of its kind. This third edition has been updated to include recent changes in nomenclature along with 200 new images, extension of some genera including Nemesia and Alstroemeria and a new look at other cultivars such as Hosta and Magnolia.

I have owned all three editions and it is always the first book consulted when researching plants either for my own garden or a client’s. Over the years small physical adjustments have been made, most of which make it easier to handle. The first edition was one volume of over 1000 pages weighing 4.5kg (10lbs). This definitely made it a weighty tome! This problem was solved in the second edition when it was split into two volumes. The latest edition has removed the dust jacket entirely and the two books have a very strong outer cover designed to look like a dust jacket. Unfortunately one fairly crucial change (to me at least) has been made. Previous designs have included Keys on the first and last pages of the book that explain references in the text such as Pruning Groups and Frost Hardiness with the second edition having these printed in both volumes making the information very easy to find. However these are missing from the new edition and appear only in the front of the first volume in amongst information on cultivation, plant groups etc; I have carefully removed the relevant pages from my old books and stuck them in the new ones.

If you could only own one book on plants this should be the one to choose. If you are not a gardening professional and already own a previous edition it may not be worthwhile purchasing the latest version however professional gardeners and designers do need to keep up with changes in nomenclature and new cultivars and this publication is the best at covering a huge range of plants. As with any plant description book it should always be remembered that certain aspects need to be read with some knowledge of local growing conditions as the way plants behave (for example size) can vary considerably not only from one part of the country to the other but also from one neighbour’s garden to another, however this has to be the best source of written information available.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

JOE’S URBAN GARDEN HANDBOOK

Joe Swift, Quadrille Publishing Limited, ISBN 978-1-84400-611-3, Published 2008, RRP £20.00

Joe's Urban Garden Handbook This book is aimed primarily at owners of urban gardens who wish to make major changes to their outdoor spaces themselves. It gives advice on employing designers and contractors to help achieve their goals but the main emphasis is to give the amateur all the information they need in order to make their perfect urban oasis.

However designers who have had little or no experience of designing such spaces should also find this book very useful. The beautiful photographs will provide plenty of inspiration and although some can be found in other publications and magazines the majority are previously unseen (at least by the reviewer) and illustrate the subject matter perfectly.

Many clients do not have large budgets and it is refreshing to find a book that keeps this in mind, showing both examples of gardens that probably cost tens of thousands of pounds to build as well as giving helpful tips on how to improve an existing space without spending a small fortune.

This book explores the use of materials and plants within the urban setting and gives ideas for solutions to recurring problems such as lack of privacy, need for storage and a wide range of uses. By simply scanning quickly through the pages it becomes obvious that ‘urban garden’ style is the use of clean lines with minimal amount of hard landscaping materials used in subtle combinations often softened by clever planting. On a more detailed read, the essential design considerations are explained and will certainly help any designer, whether professional or amateur, to create a wonderful urban environment.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

GREEN ROOFS: IN SUSTAINABLE LANDSCAPE DESIGN

Steven L Cantor, Norton, ISBN 978-0-393-73168-2, Published December 2008, RRP £40.00

Green Roofs: In Sustainable Landscape Design Green roofs are now recognised as an important component in helping to combat pollution and reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the urban environment. Major cities around the world are beginning to take the benefits of such systems extremely seriously.

This book, written by Steven L Cantor, a landscape architect in New York City, largely focuses on commercial and public sites in North America with detailed case studies from both the USA and Canada. These follow individual projects from conception through to planting and even include plant lists for each site.

Europe, as the predecessor of green roofs in North America is given its place. Locations from all over Europe are featured including London. I did not know that green roofs in London began because of the black redstart! They were found to be breeding on a proposed development site and it was decided to move their habitat from the ground to the roof of the new buildings.

Cantor also examines the different types of green roofs from typical roof gardens containing trees and shrubs to large expanses planted only with sedums, their methods of construction and advantages over normal roofing. Different materials and planting mediums are discussed and lists of suitable plants for projects are given.

Although this book is aimed mainly at the North American market any designer thinking of undertaking a similar task should find this publication useful. Even designers of smaller projects in this country should find the features on construction and planting etc very useful: no matter where in the world a project is carried out there are certain basic rules that should always be followed.

For anyone interested in sustainable landscape design and how green roofs fit into this philosophy this book is an excellent source of information.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

THE VERTICAL GARDEN: FROM NATURE TO THE CITY

Patrick Blanc, Norton, ISBN 978-0393732597, RRP £32.00

Book Cover - The Vertical Garden This is the book anyone who has seen Patrick’s vertical gardens either in the flesh, in magazines or on television has been waiting for. I am sure what is on everyone’s mind is ‘How does he do it?’ But perhaps another question should be ‘Why does he do it?’

This book follows Patrick’s life story from a five-year old who is fascinated by the tropical aquarium in his doctor’s waiting room and subsequent experiments with aquariums at home, to becoming a scientist and researcher travelling the world studying plants and their environment. Although initially interested in both plants and fish Patrick was soon drawn to the world of aquatic plants and their ecosystems including the ability of roots to filter water. It is interesting to follow the evolution of the huge vertical gardens we see today from their origin as a wood plank covered in sealant, followed by an old floor cloth covered in algae to the use of synthetic recycled fabrics.

Every gardener knows one of the keys to success is choosing the right plant for the right place. The first and largest section of this book is dedicated to plants in their natural habitats all around the world. How, why and what plants are successful in different locations such as waterfalls, cliffs and caves are described in detail and illustrated with beautiful photographs. Seeing plants that gardeners grow in soil on level ground such as Hosta, thriving on wet rocks bordering waterfalls was an eye-opener.

The second section concentrates on both the beneficial and detrimental effects plants can have when growing on buildings. We are all familiar with moss and algae growing on roof tiles and damp walls that often add character and in themselves do no damage and Buddleja davidii that likes to seed itself into old walls eventually pulling them apart. Photographs taken at the Ta Phrom temple in Angkor illustrate plants invading buildings at their extreme with one strangler Ficus growing to huge proportions with its gigantic roots gradually prising open the stones of the wall.

Then comes the bit we all want to know. The third section describes how it’s done! First he describes how, in 1994, he moved into the world of outdoor vertical gardening when he was asked to create an exhibit at the Chaumont-sur-Loire Festival and the following sequence of events that led him to meet the architect Jean Nouvel (who contributed the Preface) and with whom he has worked on many projects including the Quai Branly Museum in Paris. Then we see his home and both indoor and outdoor living walls which are used to test new theories of planting. Finally the structure, installation and maintenance of his work is laid bare with photographs from various projects illustrating different parts of the process.

The last section is a gallery of gardens, both internal and external, from around the world. If I had the money I would like to embark on a round-the-world Patrick Blanc tour!

This book will be an inspiration for anyone interested in plants, the environment, gardening, design and so much more.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

DESIGN YOUR GARDEN

Diarmuid Gavin, Dorling Kindersley, ISBN 1-4053-0545-2, RRP £16.99

Book Cover - Design Your Garden Diarmuid is famous for his often weird, wacky and somewhat impractical garden designs but this book is the complete opposite. Whether you are a garden designer or simply a homeowner looking for inspiration this book could prove invaluable. All the basics of good garden design are covered, with text written in an informal yet informative style. Excellent photographs illustrate all styles of garden, plants and materials, giving the reader an excellent starting point to trigger ideas.

One excellent chapter uses black and white drawings to illustrate how to use shape and line within different spaces. Each shape of plot is given a minimum of three examples in the use of circles, curves, squares and rectangles. Other chapters include garden style, materials, colour and planting. It is well known that Diarmuid doesn’t like drawing his designs in any detail and perhaps the ‘Planning your design’ section is the one weak element of this otherwise very useful book.

DESIGN YOUR GARDEN will make an excellent addition to any designer’s library and I am sure will be especially useful for both those entering the profession and keen amateurs who wish to make the most of their plot.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

DRIVEWAYS, PATHS AND PATIOS: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO DESIGN, MANAGEMENT AND CONSTRUCTION

Tony McCormack, The Crowood Press, ISBN 1-86126-778-9, Published 2006, RRP £16.99

Book Cover - Driveways, Paths and Patios Many designers new to the profession find the topic of construction quite daunting. It can seem unnatural providing construction specifications to contractors who have been doing the job perfectly well for many years. Therefore it is essential to understand as much about the subject as possible. This book may end up being a well-thumbed addition to the designer’s book shelf.

Tony McCormack spent over 20 years in the landscaping industry before suffering a serious accident that left him unable to work. It was then he decided to pass on his vast knowledge of all things paving to the general public and started the excellent source of ‘how to’ information; www.pavingexpert.com.

Anyone who has visited this site may think it’s not worth buying the book but they would be wrong. The whole process of building residential paving from the design process through to completion and remedial works is looked at in much more detail. Perhaps the best thing about this book is that it’s written by a contractor. Most books that cover design or hard landscaping are written by designers, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but this one approaches the subject from the viewpoint of a contractor. Just as much emphasis is given to tools and drainage as how to design and this is unusual and refreshing.

It is essential designers provide accurate specifications for the purpose of obtaining quotes and ensuring quality of work and this book will provide an excellent reference point for anyone unsure of correct techniques.

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© Sharon Brown
Garden Designer and Editor of www.gardendesignunlimited.co.uk

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