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Entries in garden book reviews (22)


The Ultimate Garden Designer: Book Review for


The Ultimate Garden Designer, Tim Newbury, Hamlyn

This is an impressive publication- a beautifully illustrated manual for the garden designer. The vast amount of talent stored between the covers of this book is what one would expect landscape architects to have developed before they receive their diplomas. The very ambitious homeowner who is comfortable working with a backhoe and some help will also enjoy following this guide.

The author is a respected and renowned garden designer. The essence of the advice he conveys to the student reader is that a garden is akin to a small park. What will make such a setting enjoyable is the path laid out by the designer to discover its contents. To create that experience, Mr. Newbury relies on the wandering, curving line that cleverly converts any small plot of land into an enchanting garden. This concept is repeated throughout the book, for practically every style of garden imaginable. The reader comes away understanding that a garden is about movement and travel both for the eye and the body. It is also about the importance of discovery and the need for camouflage.

For those landscapes that require a shed, a greenhouse, or a compost heap, the plans supplied by the author demonstrate how all of these features are tucked away ingeniously in locations that do not detract from the overall beauty of the property. One may create a garden using any of the one hundred ideas in this book and never notice these elements, no matter how small the garden.

The focus of the book is a collection of 15 basic styles of gardens that include a cottage garden, water garden and roof garden. Once the reader has selected a desired style, there are choices within that style. For example, if one would like to install a cottage garden, one may select a layout for a traditional treatment, a contemporary style or a version for a small urban back yard. Each of these choices comes with complete plans for their realization. These plans include

  • An over all view of the garden as seen from a deck.
  • An aerial blue print containing symbols and shapes to identify individual features to be installed in the garden.
  • A planting guide for the major plants to be used.
  • A plant list that is numerically cross-referenced to the planting guide.
  • A three dimensional view of the completed garden.
  • Four variations of the aerial blueprint that accommodate differences in the sizes and shapes of individual properties.

This meticulous attention to detail is repeated 36 times before this section is complete. So thorough is the presentation that it also includes plans of gardens for the disabled.

Like most prominent garden designers, the author relies heavily on trees, ornamental shrubs, paths and borders to flesh out the structure of the gardens. The use of perennials is limited. For those clients who prefer more flowers, the plans leave room for modifications after establishing the overall structure and design.

The secondary section of the book deals with the placement of hardscapes and garden features such as pools, patio, pergolas and pots. While some technical information is supplied, this section presupposes that the reader is familiar with most of the technology and engineering necessary for their installation. This section, therefore, is not a how-to-install-it manual. Instead, it is a guide on how to install it beautifully.

The final portion of the book contains an abbreviated list of recommended plants. The list is understandably short because designers tend to edit their options in order to remain efficient. Those plants that deliver the best results are included. Clearly, the author has used similar plants successfully in his projects because they work best with the garden designs he provides. The seasoned designer may chose to modify this list. For the neophyte, it is a reliable place to start.

Creating a new garden or overhauling an old one may be overwhelming for the uninitiated and even formidable for an experienced designer. However, with this beautifully illustrated color manual, as a guide, those challenges become easier.



50 High-Impact, Low-Care Garden Plants: Book Review for











50 High-Impact, Low-Care Garden Plants                      Tracy Disabato-Aust, Timber Press

Easy care plants that require little or no maintenance are favorites of mine.

Like many other people, time is a rare commodity for me and I must manage it wisely, even in my own garden. Every now and then I focus on a perennial that I have been growing for many years. I marvel how easy it is to care for and how well it blooms, even when neglected. Perennial gardeners wish that all of their plants would behave like that. Nature, however, only cooperates with us to a limited extent. It requires research to learn about such plants and it is reassuring to discover that some garden writers are doing that work for us.

With the publication of this book, Tracy Disabato-Aust has given us a gift. For the novice gardener, the author supplies a list of plants that will help create an eye-catching low-maintenance garden. The seasoned gardener, on the other hand, may discover several plants previously ignored but still worthy of consideration. The reader should bear in mind that the plant list comes with the usual restrictions based on the amount of sunlight and humidity available in ones garden as well as recommended hardiness zones.

According to the author, and we gardeners are all in agreement, a plant must exhibit the following five characteristics to be considered high impact:-

  • Multi seasonal interest
  • Colorful foliage
  • Long lasting bloom
  • Outstanding texture
  • Architectural form

In addition, there are 12 traits that the author looks for in evaluating low-maintenance plants. Each of the 50 mentioned in this book demonstrate at least 10 out of the 12 traits:

  • Long lived
  • Tolerance for heat and humidity
  • Cold hardy
  • Deer resistant
  • Insect and disease resistant
  • Minimal or no deadheading
  • Thrives without heavy fertilization
  • Requires no staking
  • Infrequent or no division required for four years or more
  • Infrequent or no pruning required to maintain neat appearance or best  flowering
  • Non-invasive
  • Drought tolerant

This is a very welcome publication because the topic contributes to the dialogue on sustainable gardening. There is a movement in the landscape community to try and develop gardens that require very little resources such as water or fertilizer and that require almost no maintenance to keep them alive. The list of plants in this publication addresses these issues admirably.

Another welcome trait of this book is the opportunity offered to the reader to discover important plants that might have been overlooked. This reviewer was delighted to learn about a cultivar of a perennial that is hardly known in the gardening community. It is called Thalictrum Erin. I have always been a Thalictrum fan and I grow a lot of it in my garden. But I have never seen anything quite like this one. It is the tallest of all Thalictrum, growing up to 96 inches in height without staking and yet never exceeding 36 inches in width. My “eureka” moment occurred as soon as I found this information in the book. Now, I need to find this plant for my garden.

In order to understand how Ms, Disabato-Aust compiled the list of 50 plants; it is helpful to study her style of landscaping. Hers are exquisitely designed gardens that are not just flower beds but are, instead, foliage and textural compositions that include shrubs, trees and perennials. All of the plants used in the author's work are chosen for the synergistic effect they have on the viewer when used in combination with other plants. The reader should feel confident that, by including a selection from the list of 50 plants, it is possible to create an attractive garden.

Tracy Disabato-Aust has earned international acclaim as one of America’s most entertaining and knowledgeable garden writers and professional speakers. This book is just one of her many accomplishments.


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