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Book Review

Rosemary Alexander - The Essential Garden Design Workbook (2nd Edition)
Timber Press 2009, or as a Kindle edition (but it’s a fine book to handle)
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It can be irritating to pick up a cookbook and find that it literally tells you how to boil an egg. But it must be hard to create a ‘How To’ book without occasionally appearing to state the obvious. Reading and enjoying this work, I was sometimes able to say, I know that already. But having finished it, I now know a lot more than I did. And I’m not even planning to design a new garden. One is enough!


Somehow this book, which is so stuffed with information on how, why and what, completely avoids talking down or being didactic. Technicalities are explained in a really engaging manner. It’s certainly not a coffee table tome but a beautifully crafted and presented manual on the subject. The stylish and understated headings take you logically through all the processes from concept to aftercare. There are a few repetitions but they perhaps reinforce what you’ve read earlier. There is certainly no padding or waffle.

The text accompanies a delightful sketch style that even a non-artist could take as inspiration and adopt.

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Sketch plan of a site survey
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Sketches of garden features

As well as numerous, informative photographic examples, there are communicative diagrams and the very professional plan drawings, and detailed instructions on how to create them yourself; with a terrific early-day lesson in technical drawing. Really quite empowering.

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Adding colour to a garden plan

With guides on hard landscaping and focus come detailed chapters on natural aspect and electric lighting and shade. There is excellent planting advice for all sorts and conditions of soil and situation: considering shape, size, structure, tactile appeal, scent and even sound. Of course, the information reflects current thinking on ecology and water conservation. And there’s even a useful glossary. I can’t wait to introduce ‘axonometric’, ‘batter’ and ‘hoggin’ into a conversation.

Working through the pages will make you appreciate your own garden in a new and inspirational way. Whether aiming for a career as a garden designer, thinking of engaging one or going DIY, this hugely informative and interesting manual works for everyone.

33€ gives you a complete compendium and could well save you a fortune on designers’ fees.

Review by Anthony Daniels - Mediterranean Gardening France

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