The Garden Visitor’s Companion by Louisa Jones

November 3, 2009

in Book Reviews, Reviews

The Garden Visitor's Companion by Louisa Jones

Garden visiting as a skill ?

Anne Wareham, editor

Anne Wareham portrait copyright Charles Hawes

The Garden Visitor’s Companion by Louisa Jones reviewed by Chris Young

For many, garden visiting is an essential part of their ongoing gardening education; a chance to see how other people interpret a site or design, or demonstrate their passion. But few books have been published to help visitors get the most from their visit – until now.

Well-known for her writing on French gardens, the author brings a compendium of questions and opinion in the shape of a beautifully-published book. High-quality photography, beautiful typography and a solidity of covers and binding make you feel you are reading something special.

The author’s aim is to get the reader thinking, questioning what they see, and how they see it. To this end, she has selected 10 styles (such as historic gardens or Japanese gardens), and within each style posed 10 questions that relate to the style. Further description and questions continue the mental stimulation – ‘what is the main goal or purpose of this collection?’, ‘what role does the gardener play here?’ and ‘who does the actual digging?’ are just a few. Clearly, some of the questions link specifically to the style in question, while others are more general. However, the net effect is that the reader is constantly being challenged, stimulated to think and question, and provoked to challenge in your mind what you are reading. It is quite a tiring way to read in actual fact, but that doesn’t lessen its quality or aim.

Unusually for contemporary literature, other authors, garden owners and commentators are cited, adding a depth and breadth so rarely experienced in garden literature. A brief but slightly hurried selection of gardens to visit chosen by gardening ‘experts’, and a list of practical visiting advice, complete the book, and act as some light relief at the end. These two sections feel slightly added on, as if the publishers needed something a bit more populist towards the back, but they in no way degrade the book.

In all, even though this book gives you few direct answers (and the questions relentless), by suggesting ways of questioning the gardens you visit, it helps you begin to formulate the answers for yourself. And when was the last time a gardening-related book did that?

Chris Young – Editor of The Garden

Chris Young






Thames and Hudson
Louisa Jones
ISBN 9780500514634

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