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
Definitely! I received it as a complementary review copy but had planned to purchase it.
2. Would I be disappointed if I
3. Will I
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.