Plant-Driven Design: Creating Gardens That Honor Plants, Place, and Spirit Hardcover – Oct 7 2008
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“[In] their fascinating book… the Ogdens explore how a garden can engage the senses, and seduce and enchant one with a sense of arrival and discovery. Through it all, they aim to help gardeners create gardens that play to their plant’s strengths.”
“An excellent book to add to your library…great advice for gardeners of all levels.”
“Plant-Driven Design champions the “plant-it-instead-of-pave-it” point of view better than any book to date.”
"A treasure trove of photographs and ideas for ecological and glorious home landscaping."
"What the opinionated authors think doesn’t work is described as fully as what they like, and they don’t pull punches. … [T]he strong point of view makes the book a better read than most of its coffee-table-worthy brethren."
About the Author
This husband-and-wife team's horticultural experience spans USDA zones 4-10. They have designed gardens and/or gardened professionally in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming as well as England, Ireland, and Austria. Public projects include gardens at Naples Botanical Garden, Denver Botanic Gardens, Callaway Gardens, and San Antonio Botanical Gardens.
Scott and Lauren have written several books in which they pioneer new plants and garden aesthetics. Their latest book, Plant-Driven Design, takes a bold look at garden design from a plant perspective, marrying site, region, plants, and people while both embracing and transcending regionality. Other books include Garden Bulbs for the South (Timber Press 2007), Passionate Gardening (Fulcrum Publishing 2000), The Moonlit Garden (Taylor Publishing 1998), The Undaunted Garden (Fulcrum Publishing 1994), Waterwise Gardening (PrenticeHall 1994), and Gardening Success With Difficult Soils (Taylor Publishing 1992.)
The Ogdens and their work have been featured on several television shows and in numerous publications, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Nature, Martha Stewart Living, Sunset, and Horticulture. Awards include two American Horticultural Society book awards and a landscape design award from the Association of Professional Landscape Designers.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
On the negative side, I am on page 51, and have been struck already with how -- for lack of a better word -- catty they are about other designers and gardens. I am happy to read their ideas for what makes a garden beautiful, but I can do without their references to, for instance, a native plant garden director "piously" sharing her opinions with them (which they obviously didn't share) or statements like "[i]nsensitivity to this plant's spirit is exemplified by a planting along the south side of an east-west path at a prominent botanic garden". I am hoping this attitude will settle down as I progress through the book. It's very jarring to be reading their peaceful, nature-driven, perhaps even dare I say, "hippy-like" writing, and then have them suddenly stop to take a swipe at another designer or garden or gardening theory. Doing that exhibits the same arrogance for which they denigrate others.
I'll update as I continue through the book.
UPDATE: So it's November and I'm only at page 117. I kinda sorta took the spring/summer/fall off to actually go in my garden, instead of reading about them. I must say that I think the cattiness dropped off some, or perhaps just became broader comments, rather than swipes at particular gardens/designers. I am a little disappointed, though, that I haven't learned much more. I guess when I bought the book I was thinking it would be a little more instructional in terms of HOW to make your garden look natural, once you have the right plants. My problem is trying to figure out spacing and doing those "drifts" that are always talked about, but never laid out on a page to clearly see a diagram of how many plants in what section, how far apart from the next plant, how to intersperse different plants so they look like they have naturally drifted into each other. Yes, I know, it's nature, but there's math and patterning in the natural world, too.
The book is a curious mix of broad gardening/nature concepts, interspersed with charts of specific types of plants (eg, "big-and bold-leaved plants"). The charts aren't as helpful as you might think, though, because most are not broken down into zones, light, water needs, etc, so you would have to go through the whole list and google them to find ones that might work in your garden. I did find their insert about Koppen Zones interesting, but my interest was purely academic, because they don't really discuss the zones in the body of the book, or separate out certain comments for certain zones.
So, now that the cooler weather is upon us, I hope to finish up this book soon, if for no other reason than to finish this review so I don't have to think about the "comment" the author saw fit to attach to my review. Talk about spoiling any good vibes... I'll update again when I'm done with the book.
Readers will not want to sit and read this all at one time - it's a book to return to again and again. The abundance of beautiful photographs and detailed, honest prose provide repose for stressed minds, offer inspiration for new garden concepts, encourage exploration of the natural world, and grant freedom to experience plants as the basis for all garden processes.
On the other hand, Plant Driven Design offers some of the most diverse and creative plant lists ever incorporated into a single gardening book, with hundreds of suggestions of a vast array of species and cultivars for a myriad of sites and conditions. I was especially intrigued with lists of Junipers to Love, Bulbs for Steppe Plantings, Designing with Light, and Matching Climates and Plants.
Gardeners of all flavors will appreciate the depth and breadth that these intelligent and creative gardeners bring forth - science, art, philosophy, travel, romance and nature woven purposefully throughout the pages. This is a book that will change the way you experience gardens forever.
In the chapter, Putting Plants First: "The earthly Edens we create are indeed poetic realms in which we are able to forget our modern-day divorce from the natural world. This renewal of our relationship with nature is the very essence of garden experience."
They start out with a manifesto about just that balance:
"Gardens are certainly for people, but in order to be gardens, they must be created with plants first in mind.
This is not to say that architecturally driven landscapes cannot be beautiful. They often are, in the same way that well-proportioned buildings are beautiful. But if their fixed geometry goes too far, so that the composition rests only on the static beauty of paving, walls, sheared hedges, massed bedding flowers, and repeated lines and beds of matching trees, shrubs, and other architectural subjects, there is little to love save architecture.
In these kinds of landscapes nature has been utterly defeated."
Then they bring out the real distinction:
"The error made my designers of these spaces is assuming that a garden is a place or thing. As any gardener knows, what's missing from this view is the sense of process. The noun garden only comes into being when it is also a verb."
I loved their emphasis on the experience of a garden as an ongoing process. So many designers and writers focus on the end result, which as all gardeners know, is never the end - it's a cycle.
Visit any gardener and you'll hear that they wish you'd come two months prior, or would come again in two weeks when the such and such will be in bloom, or "you'll have to forgive the Nepetas, they get so scraggly this time of year."
Gardens are ever-changing, and so much of our enjoyment comes from intimate fellowship with the plants and wildlife that give a landscape its LIFE!
Of course a random collection of plants, with no relationship to the surroundings or to each other, is obviously not a pleasing place to spend time. It's only when we use plants with respect and attention to their finer qualities, and place them in settings appropriate to their surroundings that we have a place that really moves and teaches us.
With that in mind, the Ogdens spend a wonderfully thorough amount of time on HOW to design with plants - how to view light, how to work with your natural surroundings or the things that make your region special; in short, how to design a garden when your primary consideration is the connection and composed beauty that a lovingly-planted landscape brings.
Then, throughout the book are exceptionally detailed lists of plants for different uses in the garden. These aren't your usual "flowers for shade" and "purple flowers" types of lists, and many of the plants are unusual varieties that you may not have heard of before, which gives us a lot of room to grow into this book.
Some of my favorite lists:
Deciduous Woody Plants with Precocious Flowers (flowers that arrive on bare wood)
Evening-Fragrant and Night-Fragrant Plants
Herbaceous Plants with Good-Looking Spent Flowers
Plants for Dry-Stack Stone Walls
Companions to Bold Succulents and Fiber Plants
I think you can tell by the lists and by the writing style that this is a book you'll return to time and time again. My copy is covered in sticky notes where I wanted to remember to come back and read more, or that I should refer to the list again soon.
If you're a beginning gardener, some of this may be the type of writing that you don't fully understand the first time through. That's OK. The writing style and advice are of such fine caliber that as you grow and learn, you'll find yourself developing an even greater appreciation for it, and you'll gain new insights on each reading.
If you're a landscape designer or particularly an architect, this book is absolutely required reading. The plant lists alone are worth far beyond the cover price, and the poetic and thoughtful text will give you new insights into how to work with the natural attributes of plants to create landscapes that honor region, architecture, and our human desire to connect with plants and nature.