Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Book Review: Refresh Your Garden Design with Color, Texture and Form

I didn't realize when I first moved here to the Seattle area from Massachusetts five years ago what a steep learning curve would be involved in gardening here. I knew when I decided to move here that it was a great area of the country for gardening, being at least one zone and, in some areas, two zones, warmer than where we lived in Massachusetts (especially since they redid the zone map recently). I knew living here in the PNW that I would have to cope with a long rainy season, but I didn't realize the area had a modified Mediterranean climate (similar to a traditional Mediterranean climate but with less extreme temperature fluctuations).

In order to try to ameliorate that steep learning curve, I started reading West Coast blogs, from Seattle to Portland to California (California has a traditional Mediterranean climate). One of the blogs I started reading, and learned a lot from, is Rebecca Sweet's Gossip in the Garden. You can learn a lot from it too, even if you're not gardening on the West Coast. One thing that I love about Rebecca's blog is that almost every post is substantive and meaty, with lots of good pictures and information. Its purpose is not just to bring attention to her design company.

From the "About Rebecca" page on her blog: "Rebecca Sweet is a garden designer with her company Harmony In The Garden, located in Northern California. In addition to designing gardens, she is the author of Refresh Your Garden Design with Color, Texture and Form (2013) and is the co-author of the national best-selling garden book Garden Up! Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces.  Rebecca also shares her secrets to successful garden design in her column “Harmony in the Garden” in Horticulture Magazine." Read more about Rebecca here.

So...when she contacted me recently to see if I was interested in reviewing her new book
Refresh Your Garden Design with Color, Texture and Form
, I jumped at the chance. I had been hearing about it on other blogs, and I was dying to read it.

What I Love About the Book

It's simply and exactly what the title says -- a guide to figuring out how to use color, texture and form to fix problem areas in your garden. After a short introduction, the book breaks down into five chapters. The first chapter teaches you how to use tools such as your camera to identify the problem areas in your garden, many of which you may not even be aware of because of familiarity blindness. The next three chapters focus on those three features in the title -- color, texture and form. The final chapter, called Plant Picks, is more than just a glossary of plant names. It gives lists of plants with specific reference to each plant's color, texture or form, and how it can be used to solve problems in your garden. For example, if you've realized you need to warm up the color in your garden with some red tones, you can choose from a short list of plants such as Papaver dubium, a red annual poppy that can add the warmth you're looking for.

If you've been following my blog lately, you know that right now I'm in the middle of completely redoing the front garden. If you've been reading for a while, you know that I redo my beds a lot (many avid gardeners constantly tweak). Another thing that I loved about Rebecca's book is that I had to stop often while I was reading it, not because my mind was wandering, but because it was sparking so many great ideas! For example, I want to make orange a featured color in my new front beds, but I didn't realize until Rebecca pointed it out that the cones on Echinacea purpurea are orange, meaning I can use it in my new bed (and grow it from seed, which I also do a lot of).

What I Didn't Like About the Book

That Before Picture is too small

I have a minor quibble, and it's about the pictures. We gardeners love pictures, don't we? And why not, gardens are constantly changing visual art. Pictures are so instructive, which is essential in a book like this one that is trying to teach you a thing or two. My quibble is that in the sidebars sprinkled throughout the book called "Design Spotlight" the Before pictures are too small to show you anything useful. You can learn just as much from the Before picture as you can from the After. I know it's not as exciting, but I really wanted to be able to see clearly what was wrong with the Before.

That's it. The rest of the photos are gorgeous, and that's so important in a gardening book.

I really enjoyed poring over this book. I read it closely, and took my time getting everything I could out of it. I know it will be a useful tool from now on, one that I go back to over and over, and especially this spring while I plant up all those new areas in my front garden. Even if you're a fairly new gardener, you can still benefit from reading this gardening book. After all, it's an unusual house that has absolutely no landscaping. If you're just starting out with a "garden" that was installed by a builder, get this book and read it cover to cover!

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher F&W Media (who also publish the magazine Horticulture).