This is the full version of the quickie review posted here on Feb. 9, 2010.
Fabulous Flowerbeds Gisela Keil & Jurgen Becker, F&W Publications
This is a gem of a book. The author Gisela Keil and photographer Jurgen Becker have compiled an easy to follow guide to designing and planting flowerbeds. The illustrations are inspiring and the advice is clear-cut. There is no empty rhetoric, subjective emotion, or abstract passion about flowers or gardening in the text. The chapters are written with an economy of words that will delight the busy gardener. The information is grounded in reality because right on the first page, before one can begin to read, the author makes clear, with a photograph of a patio table surrounded by a flowerbed, that this is going to be a book about gardens, in which people are as important as plants.
The many topics that the author covers include: the location and purpose of a garden, the contrast between formal and informal flowerbeds, how to design both of these styles, and how to maintain color all year round. The illustrations are lavish and appropriate, even though they are in color schemes that we are unaccustomed to seeing in English style gardens. The photographs will inspire readers, especially those who enjoy the multicolor of wildflower or meadow gardens.
A few details about this book are noteworthy. At first glance, I wondered about the graphic design of the book’s cover, done in purple and pink. I was also surprised at how many illustrative flowerbeds were composed using hot colored flowers. I was then amused at the precise no-nonsense language used to instruct. Then I realized that the original text had been published in a foreign language and targeted at another culture. That explained everything. Do not be put off by the colors of the graphic design, do not allow yourself be influenced by the preponderance of hot colored gardens, and try to ignore the stilted translation from the original German text. Focus, instead, on the advice and on the instructions. This is a valuable manual.
Two features of this book stand out for this reviewer. One is the collection of blueprints for planting perennials in drifts that appears at the end of the book. This technical information is essential for those who plant gardens in the English style. Few authors include such a guide in their work, even though they might mention its importance. The second aspect that is noteworthy is the chapter on color theory. Many of us already understand how opaque and overwhelming this topic can present itself. In the hands of Ms. Keil, everything we need to know about color in the garden is summarized efficiently and is easy to understand. There is no need to navigate through the effusive verbosity that we sometimes find in the garden writings of some authors.
This book is available through Amazon Marketplace. This is where suppliers offer both new and used copies of books at hard-to-believe prices. I purchased my new copy for fifty cents at Amazon.com. Had I opted for a used copy, I would have paid only one cent. Of course, shipping was $3.99, a pittance for the acquisition of such an important book.