A few years ago as these things go, I met Anne Wareham via Twitter. I don’t have a specific memory of who was saying what in 140 characters or less, but we both quickly found out that we share a similar view on the state of garden design.
Anne was just starting to write her book then. It’s finished now and available in the U.S., so I asked for a copy to read. I’m not a good reviewer since I only finish books that I like so you pretty much know that I liked her book already.
The title is a funny play on another of my favorite garden books–the late Christopher Lloyd’s The Well-Tempered Garden. The two are fundamentally alike–essays written by extremely talented and opinionated garden makers. Anne’s book is full of ideas about gardens that will seem contrary to most.
Early on in Anne’s book, her main ideas are established through a memoir like introduction of the making of Veddw, her challenging garden in Wales. After admiting (like me) that she is not ‘endlessly fascinated by plants’ Anne wonders ‘ Many people look with private horror at houses full of knickknacks. A garden full of the equivalent leads to lecture tours and media admiration. No wonder the world fails to take gardens seriously.’
I have often lamented here and elsewhere–to anyone who will listen–that garden and landscape design must stop being considered offshoots of gardening and be respected as a design discipline if is to be taken seriously. Sure there’s a large horticultural aspect of it, but that’s really the icing on the cake, not the be-all-end-all.
Anne does describe and extol (as well as the contrary) various plants and how she’s seen them used or used them herself. She has some favorites…Alchemilla mollis, and some not… Helebores. There’s no plant porn here, just a sprinkling of photos by her photographer partner, Charles Hawes. This is a book about thought and ideas.
Anne is also one of the founding members of Thinkinggardens a website devoted to the serious discussion of gardens. It is full of opinions, criticism and ideas.
I am an infrequent American contributor to that site and am grateful to be a part of a community of designers, authors and devoted amateurs who are willing to think about the design of gardens as a design discipline rather than as an act of gardening.
If you want a good read that will make you think about what makes a garden great from a gardener who has made one, read this book.
Note: Yes, I’ve been active this week giving Miss R a well needed jumpstart after a long hiatus. Next week (with some luck and perseverance) I’ll go back to a couple of posts each week, but this week I felt everyone who has stuck with me deserved some extras…there will be one more tomorrow and then back to normal…whatever that is!–S