Great Garden Design by Ian Hodgson, reviewed by Katherine Crouch.

March 24, 2015

in Book Reviews, Reviews

I wonder: are all great garden designs, as in this book, designed by professional garden designers? What do you think? Is there a kind of garden apartheid – garden designs on one side, gardens on the other?

Anne Wareham, editor

Great Garden Designs cover copyright Katherine Crouch for thinkingardens

Great Garden Design by Ian Hodgson,

A review by Katherine Crouch

This book is a sumptuously illustrated showcase of 21st Century garden designs by members, known and less known, of The Society of Garden Designers. The experience of Ian Hodgson, former editor of The Garden magazine, shines through, the balance between photograph and text, garden description and designer profile making the reading effortless.

The photographs are the stars of the book, blazing with colour, the designers discreetly credited and profiled in grey text. The photographic acknowledgements in the back of the book are slightly annoying to cross reference, but had the designers, photographers and perhaps the landscapers all been credited under the photographs, the layout would have been very messy.

Great Garden Design 3 Copyright Katherine Crouch DSCF3195 (Custom)

Shallow pool full of dinosaur eggs. Nightmare to clean.

The sections of the book begin with different garden styles, with descriptions to help a prospective client understand how environment and maintenance constraints may dictate a suitable style for them.

As nearly a third of SGD members are based in London and the South East (297 out of 1056) where contemporary formal styles are most popular, it is not surprising that contemporary and urban gardens occupy 18 pages of the Bold Visions section, where cottage and country style is dealt with in only 6 pages. However, naturalistic, tropical and water gardens, both urban and rural, are featured in abundance.

Posh infinity pool with clean, leafless paving ... It's not quite like that at Crouch Towers.

Posh infinity pool with clean, leafless paving … It’s not quite like that at Crouch Towers.

The gallery section has some show gardens and public spaces, but mostly private commissions. For those readers just starting out on a garden design career, try not to get too jealous of the large budget commissions in spacious landscapes or urban chic with very expensive materials. Suburbia, if it exists on these pages, has been carefully cropped and screened out of existence.

A lot of really useful information has been put into grey boxes, beside the narrative, with helpful quotes from designers, notes on garden history and aspects of design elements, making this a book both suitable for dipping into randomly, or reading cover to cover.

Curvy garden in Bold Visions chapter by Ian Kitson. My absolutely favourite garden in the book.

Curvy garden  by Ian Kitson. My absolutely favourite garden in the book.

If I have one gripe, it is that most gardens are exquisitely pristine, the hard landscaping photographed as the team completed the build were sweeping their way backwards off site. The swathes of plants have been photographed a season or three after installation, but there is a considerable acreage of clean cream paving and gravel without so much as a leaf marring its beauty. Only John Brookes’ gardens on pages 113 and 174 look naturally grubby and weathered.

Despite a chapter on sustainable solutions, I should like to see how quickly the shallow pool on page 47 fills up with leaves and slime and whether the concrete yard on pages 58-9 (below) remains pale and blonde without chemical intervention.

Concrete courtyard. If this is the future of garden design I want to slash my wrists.

Concrete courtyard. If this is the future of garden design I want to slash my wrists.

This  is my least favourite garden in the book. The planting will take a couple of seasons to overcome the prison yard vibe. It is the only garden I can’t find a designer credit for.

This book should sell at least 1056 copies immediately. It will remain to be seen whether prospective clients will buy it too.

Katherine Crouch.    Website here

Katherine Crouch portrait


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