Read This: Gardentopia

June 12, 2019

Many would-be gardeners, and even gardeners with plenty of experience, feel overwhelmed by the idea of making a design for their yard. Those with a passion for collecting plants may find themselves especially puzzled by how to bring their garden together cohesively and creatively.

If this describes your feelings about garden design, check out Gardentopia: Design Basics for Creating Beautiful Outdoor Spaces (The Countryman Press, 2019) by Jan Johnsen, a New York-based landscape designer and author of The Spirit of Stone. Eschewing a linear, how-to format, Gardentopia offers bite-sized morsels of design techniques, creative ideas, and selected plants. Each tip appears on its own page with pretty, illustrative photos. Reading the book is like touring a well-designed garden with the designer as she points out various features, absorbing her advice and experience along the way.

Johnsen’s design pointers include: Hide and Reveal–The Mystery of the Unseen; Framing a Garden; Everyday “Art” in the Garden; How Big a Patio Do You Need?; One-Color Gardens and Planters; and Love Your Slope. A total of 135 design tips and how-tos are organized in 5 chapters: Garden Design and Artful Accents; Walls, Patios, Walks, and Steps; Theme Gardens; Color in the Garden; and Plants and Planting. For my local Texas readers, keep in mind that plant lists in national gardening books are generally not applicable to our climate. Design ideas, however, work just as well under the Texas sun as in leafy and cool New York.

Johnsen writes unselfconsciously about the spiritual aspects of gardening, as attuned to finding meaning in the garden as making sure a patio is well laid. The result is a charming and practical book that demystifies the process of design.

Disclosure: The Countryman Press sent me a copy of Gardentopia for review. I reviewed it at my own discretion and without any compensation. This post, as with everything at Digging, is my own personal opinion.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.

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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Join the mailing list for Garden Spark! Hungry to learn about garden design from the experts? I’m hosting a series of talks by inspiring garden designers, landscape architects, and authors a few times a year. I’m also co-hosting design-focused, private-garden tours for small groups. Held in Austin, the talks and tours are limited-attendance events that sell out quickly, so join the Garden Spark email list to be notified in advance. Simply click this link and ask to be added.

Save the date for Austin’s Open Day garden tour, sponsored by The Garden Conservancy, to be held Saturday, November 2. There will also be a Fort Worth Open Day tour on October 6. Get info about Open Days all over the country by purchasing the 2019 Open Days Directory.

All material © 2006-2019 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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