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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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How to Create Successful, Seamless, Landscape Designs; a book review for 

Timeless Landscape Design, Mary Palmer Dargan, ASLA and Hugh Graham Dargan, ASLA, Gibb Smith

Over the past three decades, Mary and Hugh Dargan have been creating award-winning landscapes for their clients. That professional achievement has been accomplished with the help of The Four Part Master Plan, a landscape design method they developed and perfected over time. Essentially, this book summarizes and elaborates upon the Dargan’s plan so that others may use it as a guide to creating successful, seamless, landscape designs.

The Master Plan begins with The Approach and Arrival Sequence, an appreciation for the critical, visual experience associated with the simple act of coming home and parking the car. In this opening segment, attention is paid to the driveway, the front walk, and the home’s entrance.

The second section, called The Hub, deals with the integration of the house into the land and focuses on the home’s exterior presence. Here the authors examine the instantaneous perception that tells the eye, and the brain, if the house is, or is not, well integrated into the property.

The third component of the plan addresses the outdoor experiences of everyday life. Aptly titled The Perimeter, it encompasses ways to blend seamlessly the indoor and outdoor design schemes. It also embraces borrowed views and vistas found in the exterior. Topics mentioned in this section vary from  terraces and arbors to lawn entertainment.

The final component discusses the function of garden refuges. Titled Passages to Destinations, it deals with outdoor experiences that are set away from the house itself. These may include flower borders, a bench under a tree, or a secluded garden room.  At this stage of planning, the least pragmatic concerns of homeowners are addressed, i.e. the dreams and emotional needs that the landscape design must satisfy.

However, it is the outset of the book that is pivotal to understanding the authors’ philosophical approach to landscape design. Titled Sources and Inspiration, this prologue discusses the application of art and design principles to the landscaping of a property. An extraordinarily well done preamble, it emphasizes the important role that art plays in what is clearly a creative endeavor.

Unlike some books, that appeal mostly to the weekend gardener, this beautifully illustrated academic work, is best suited to students of landscape architecture and garden design. Therefore, it is not a quick read – it is intended for studious absorption.

Nevertheless, it will appeal to all readers, regardless of their level of professional training or landscaping experience. The authors have taken instructional material and written its text in a warm and friendly style, an appreciated approach usually reserved for the sharing of a beautiful journey.

Lushly enhanced with diagrams and photographs, this publication offers strong visual references to historic, inspirational gardens, as well as superb design examples from the authors’ professional archives. So rich is the content that astute readers may learn a great deal about landscape design simply by admiring the photographs that appear, so generously, on every page. 


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Reader Comments (2)

Hi Allan, Just the other day I was in the bookstore and was lamenting the lack of landscape design books (at this location of Chapters at any rate). Based on the selection on offer at this store, it would seem that publishers everywhere are focused on simple, and I might add uninspiring, how-to books aimed at the weekend gardener. It seemed to me that there was an over abundance of inexpensive, paperback books on backyard veggie gardening. The one design book that I found interesting was very pricy. I would lay odds that the book you are reviewing here is similarly expensive. I wonder if that is because good design books require excellent photography and that adds significantly to the cost of producing the book. Whatever the reason for their scarcity, I do wish there were more affordable design books on offer.

December 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

Big box stores like Chapters, must appeal to the broadest audience possible in order to remain commercially viable. Quality books, such as this one, appeal to a narrower segment of the gardening community; not as many will be sold; and this affects the ticket price of the book.
That you found only one garden design book tells us that big box stores do not have the market for this topic. These books are more plentiful online where the best prices may be found.
Amazon usually discounts them and the prices of, very often, are better than those on
Buying books online, at better prices than at retail, can be justified when the book selected qualifies for free shipping.
I do all of my garden book shopping at Amazon. They have every book that I have ever dreamed of reading, and more.

December 13, 2011 | Registered CommenterAllan

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