Friday, December 13, 2013

Refresh Your Garden Design with Color, Texture & Form by Rebecca Sweet, a book review


It’s been awhile since I’ve done a book review and somehow this one, right now, seems the perfect title for jumping back in. As you might remember I visited the author’s garden during the 2013 Garden Bloggers Fling. When I arrived back home, after 3 days in San Francisco touring beautiful gardens, I looked at my own garden and found it lacking. Something wasn’t right. Something had to change. But of course the “must do” tasks jumped to the forefront and soon I was again seeing my garden through blind eyes.

Rebecca addresses this right away, in Chapter 1: Seeing With Fresh Eyes. She refers to it as “familiarity blindness” and points out the longer you’ve been gardening in a given place the harder it is to see what’s wrong with your garden. One of her many tips for taking off the blinders is to use your camera, noting that looking at your garden when you aren’t in it takes away a lot of the distractions. I know when I’ve taken photos for a blog post often times I don’t see the dead leaf (or branch, or plant) that “ruins” the photo until later, when I’m looking at the photo on the computer screen. My eyes edited it out when I was in the garden.

Taking it a step further she tells us if we erase the color from those photos (easy to do with a setting on your digital camera, or photo editing software on your computer) we're left with what she calls a "garden x-ray," brilliant! This tip exposes those areas where the texture and form of your plants blend together to create a shapeless mass of boring.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, I need to back up and give you an overview the book…

After learning to see the garden with fresh eyes you’re then shown how to Refresh With Color in Chapter 2 and on to Texture and Form in Chapters 3 and 4. Finally in Chapter 5 Rebecca shares Plant Picks, because “there’s something all gardeners share in common: We love shopping for plants!” I think that sentiment helps to explain why this book speaks to me so loudly. Rather than look at plants as “plant material” Rebecca is a true plant lover. She communicates her design sense (there are many Design Tips and Spotlights throughout the chapters) and love of plants as a woven together whole, one is not weighed more heavily than the other. Doesn't she just look like a plant lover?

To say Refresh Your Garden Design is information-rich is an understatement. There is knowledge to soak up on every page. Truth be told I rushed through some of the book, reading parts in depth and skimming others, because I thought the book would make a great holiday gift and wanted to review it asap. I can’t wait to read everything again in depth.

Lest you think this is such a dense read there’s no room for eye-candy (or plant porn as some would call it) do not fear! There are plenty of luscious photos, close-ups of plants and garden photos from public and private gardens (every photo in this post comes from the book).

Which brings me to my one gripe, the cover. Yes in this case the saying is true...do not judge Refresh Your Garden Design by the cover alone, which find to be sort of blah and uninspiring. If I didn’t know Rebecca to be a talented designer with great taste I might not have cracked the book open based strictly on the cover (and yes I do often buy wine based on the label).

To end this review I’m going to steal a set of questions Alan of It’s Not Work It’s Gardening has been using to wrap-up book reviews on his blog (great reviews by the way, I recommend clicking on the link). Of course I put my own spin on his questions…

1. Am I glad to have it on my bookshelf in the pile of books that won’t fit on my bookshelf?
Definitely! I received it as a complementary review copy but had planned to purchase it.

2. Would I be disappointed if I misplaced it loaned it to a friend who never gave it back?
Yes!

3. Will I read it again finish reading it?
Yes! I have a feeling my garden is going to need some expert “refreshing” in the spring, after our crazy cold has edited for me. Rather than just going all crazy sticking cool plants in holes maybe I can improve the design at the same time?

4. Would I give it as a gift (to anyone besides that friend who never returned my copy)?
Yes, although I’d be sure the recipient had indicated a dissatisfaction with some element of their garden. Otherwise it might seem I was sending them a message, like when you offer a piece of gum to a friend and they think you’re telling them they have bad breath!


All material © 2009-2013 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Photos courtesy of Rebecca Sweet. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

22 comments:

  1. Excellent review. I got a review copy too, and have been writing my review in my head for a few days now. I liked it too. Did you ask Horticulture for pictures of the pages to post, or did you scan them yourself?

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    1. I love that you said "writing my review in my head for a few days now" as I too compose a lot in my head. I hate when I come up with something I really like but I'm not in a place to be able to write it down. Then when I am I've forgotten it!

      (sorry I didn't get a chance to answer your question about the photos before your review went up, Rebecca sent me a link to a few online)

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  2. Great review, I enjoyed your fun and personal take. I am reading the book now and very much plan to put Rebecca's ideas for seeing the garden with new eyes to use in the spring. Good point about making sure the recipient wants to update their garden first!

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    1. Thanks Shirley...spring, it ca't get here fast enough!

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  3. I'm glad you reviewed this book. It's on my Xmas wishlist.

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    1. I hope someone comes through for you Gerhard!

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  4. Hey, I rely heavily on "familiarity blindness" in my garden! ;)

    Also, I'd not be too worried about insulting people (question 4). I've never found a gardener that was 100% happy with their garden. Would you hesitate before offering them a free plant? Isn't it almost the same thing? :)

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    1. Interesting comparison Alan, I don't see it as at all the same!

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  5. Loree - what a fantastic review! As I told you before, one of the main reasons I was hoping you'd review my book is because you're always so honest and thorough. So hearing such praise from you truly makes my heart sing. And re: the cover - I sorta had the same feeling when I first saw it. As you may know, rarely (and I mean RARELY) does an author have any say over the title or the cover of the book - and this was no exception. It's okay. But the designer who worked on the inside of the book did such a fantastic job that it totally made up for it. I lucked out with her (phew!). Thanks again for everything and I hope my book helps with some of the blank holes that I'm afraid you may be left with after the devastating freeze you've had. XOXO

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    1. I remember a discussion I had with a new author who had just seen the cover of his book, he was very disappointed. Of course it then went on to big success so I guess the cover didn't hold him back. Good design can be such a subjective thing! And you're right I totally loved the inside design of the book.

      I am remaining skeptical but right now I am extremely surprised at how good things look considering the duration and depth of the freeze...of course there are still months of winter ahead...

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  6. I enjoyed your review, now you've wet my appetite to seek this book out!

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    1. Yay! I think you'll enjoy it Jenni

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  7. Superb writing! Both yours and Rebecca's! Am loving her book, but can't imagine I can offer a better take on it. This book is perfect timing as our season turns to "planning" and "new eyes" before we have to get in gear to beat the heat.

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    1. Thank you Linda, that's very kind of you! (I'm blushing)

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  8. Like you, I read Rebecca's book quickly in order to get a review up. I am eagerly awaiting a stretch of free time so I can delve into it more deeply.

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    1. Free time? What's that? I'm counting on a long boring January...

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  9. I will definitely have to get this book! She is awesome. Great review.

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    1. Sadly it sounds like you might have some garden holes to fill come spring too...

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  10. Well, I guess you've done your job, because I now want to read this book and never would have made it past the cover either. I never lend books or money that I expect to see again.

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  11. I think the cover looks really good. Your review is also really good. Especially since it's never too early to start thinking about ways to improve our gardens.

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