Fifty Gardens Around the World

By George Graine, Fairfax Master Gardener
“A garden that is finished is dead” — M.E. Bates (1905-1974)

Book over“Gardenlust,” a book written by Christopher Woods in 2018 (Timber Press), is surely not X-rated. Why? Because the sub-title of the book is “A Botanical Tour of the World’s Best New Gardens” with emphasis on NEW. Included are fifty contemporary gardens, both private and public, that were created in the last two decades making them 21st century gardens. You may become pleasantly surprised when you find where these gardens are located. In more than 400 pages you will experience (as an armchair traveler and explorer) a world-wide garden tour de force of six continents. You may even succumb to a wonder lust (wander lust?) as you are sure to become inspired. Indeed, the old expression of a picture is worth a thousand words is absolutely apt when describing the voluminous color photos that accompany each garden. So lust on!

Of course, what constitutes a good landscape design is often personal opinion and that can lead to wide interpretations. The author seems to gleefully include the following criteria if you dare to call it that. By travelling the world in search of gardens, he is intrigued by “a particularly modern take on using inherently interesting plants, fresh approaches to how to place them that result in the creation of something new or at least unconstrained by the weight of tradition ” and more. Read this sentence a second time and you will realize how helpful this book can become regarding your own idiosyncrasy for garden design.

As one might imagine, during your journey through this book, the author points out that what he writes are his opinions regarding what constitutes good innovation in garden design. Bravo for his honesty! Agree or not, that is for you to decide. Throughout the book you will probably come away and realize his self-assuredness. He writes, “What forms that gardens can take now, what needs they must fulfill, and what the indicators are of garden design will progress as the century advances.” If this sounds familiar to you, it should. Most likely you will agree that your own garden is not finished because it is a work in progress.

No doubt as you travel the world, through this book, you will realize the variable of how and why the author includes small and humongous gardens in the magnificent fifty. Each garden presents a detailed discussion including an abundance of color photos that are visually appealing and illustrate the design points being made. If you come to feel that this book is not relevant to your quarter or more acre of the world, then think again. The fact is, this book goes beyond design principles, new planting theory and a history of garden ideas. “What makes modern landscape design different from most other forms of contemporary art is our growing understanding of the effects of deforestation and climate change, the lessons to be learned by studying ethnobotany, the importance of an urban forest and the impulse to use what we hope are ecologically appropriate or native plants.”

Throughout this book, the author has woven a pattern that includes beauty, nature, plants and people, nativity and urbanization. Even though nativity and urbanization are noted, “Gardenlust” does include a place for exotic (non-native) plants in your garden design. Also, not to be overlooked is sustainability and water conservation that should be considered.

In summary, you, too, can create your own favorite place in the world so — lust on!