3 out of 4 stars
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Gardeners are a unique lot—gladly focusing on a vision and its process, without attachment to the outcome. The end result may not be fully realized for years. April Harden understands this concept and considers gardening to be a valuable exercise of the body and mind, meditative and cathartic.
Inspired by her love of the outdoors and childhood visits to grandma’s garden, April Harden pursued a career as a horticulturist and landscape designer. Harden has taken her decades of gardening wisdom and inserted it into the template of a recipe. She presents this yummy collection in her resource manual, Garden Design Recipes: Design Without the Designer.
The first 30 pages summarize general garden design principles—the technical basics, such as soil testing, budgeting, and mulch calculations. Ninety percent of the book is the recipes—the garden designs. Categories such as “Accent Gardens,” “Perennial Beds,” and “Edible Gardens,” each contain cleverly named individual designs. “Look at My Bloomers” and “Granny’s Pantry” describe a flowering plant design and an herb garden. Each design includes a description, ingredients list, photos, planting instructions, and specifics about the appearance, growth habit, and care needs for each plant. Two useful appendices finish the book: a plant index and a cross-reference to garden names.
Harden’s book was a pleasure to read. A few particularly helpful elements caught my attention. Harden estimates the amount of time to install each garden, which is really helpful information for a weekend gardener. For some important tips, Harden uses “WITI” boxes. These “Why is this important” boxes highlight particularly relevant elements, such as why accurate square footage calculations and soil tests are important.
Many books in this genre depict designs for entire properties or encyclopedias of overwhelming plant details. Harden’s “quick-start guide” includes over 70 garden designs that feel attainable and realistic. Most could be installed in a weekend, allowing for the opportunity to approach garden design in manageable, well-defined chunks.
Hardin includes plan view drawings as well as street-perspective images of the finished designs, compiled from photo images of the individual plants. It’s challenging to picture the eventual finished product, and the author assists with this creatively.
Technically speaking, the book is mixed. While attention was given to the presentation and organization, I found a number of editing errors. They were mostly minor, but they would have been caught by a professional editor.
There is an attractive, tree graphic on each page of the introductory chapters. This graphic makes the superimposed text barely readable. It would help to lighten up this graphic.
The Table of Contents doesn’t include the section of garden designs. Over 250 pages of material are not represented. It would have been useful to have the general sections and categories included to facilitate locating a particular type of design.
Overall, Garden Design Recipes is a beautiful effort. I offer a rating of 3 out of 4 stars for its succinct, detailed information, organization, and creative designs. I’m unable to award a perfect rating due to the editing errors, but without them, the book would earn a perfect score. I think beginning gardeners will appreciate trying some smaller gardens to test their green thumb. I gladly recommend this book to gardeners who like smaller, themed gardens, or phased garden design.
Garden Design Recipes
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