Read This: Dreamscapes by Claire Takacs

December 10, 2019

Claire Takacs has my dream job: she travels the world to photograph gardens. The Australian garden photographer known for her moody yet incandescent images of sunlight stretching long fingers over treetops and through stained-glass flowers and foliage published her first solo book last year, Dreamscapes: Inspiration and Beauty in Gardens Near and Far (2018, Hardie Grant Books). Packed with transfixing photos of 69 gardens — largely private although some public gardens are included — this hefty hardback is one you’ll leave out on the coffee table after you’ve pored over each page.

Light is a tangible presence as seen through Takacs’s lens. In fact the gardens themselves play almost a supporting role to the scene-stealing sunlight. Hazy beams are fractured into rays by spotlit leaves; gauzy mist laps against glowing flower spikes and the radiant seedheads of grasses; sunrise gilds distant treetops as a shadowed garden in the foreground holds its breath, waiting like Michelangelo’s Adam for the divine touch of sunrise.

Gardens in Australia and New Zealand, the U.S., Europe, and Asia are featured, with a slight majority from the U.S. Each garden’s spread — generally 2 to 4 pages — includes a few enthused paragraphs from Takacs about the garden’s history and its creator(s), with occasional personal recollections about conditions while visiting the garden and how she photographed it. I enjoyed reading these, especially her first-hand observations about the moods certain gardens evoked.

My one complaint about the book is my usual one: coverage of U.S. gardens is limited exclusively to coastal states: the Pacific Northwest down to California and New England down to the Mid-Atlantic. Where are the Southern, Southwestern, Mountain States, and Midwestern gardens? The absence of interior U.S. gardens is one of my pet peeves about most gardening books and magazines. I challenge Takacs and other photographers and garden writers to branch out from the well-known (and moneyed) garden corridors on the coasts and find worthy subjects in hotter, drier, harsher regions, which may well represent the future in terms of gardening in an era of climate change.

That quibble aside, Dreamscapes is a book to daydream over, luxuriating in Takacs’s stunning images and adding gardens to your must-visit list. For any garden dreamer on your holiday wish list, this book will captivate.

Disclosure: I purchased Dreamscapes and reviewed it at my own discretion and without any compensation. This post, as with everything at Digging, is my own personal opinion.

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