Julia Williams: Visual stimulation in the garden

Garden Design and Style: the essence of the garden
Trisha Dixon,
Collins, Auckland, 1991, $49.95

Garden Design and Style sets the tone of the book with an eye-catching cover and a preface that states quite honestly: it is ‘intended as a photographic source book … with the emphasis on structural ideas for the garden rather than planting’.

Through the book runs the theme of the visual identity of the garden, with chapters on garden styles such as classical, cottage, romantic, courtyard to seasons and finally garden features like sculpture, pergolas, the garden chair, floral artistry, to mention only a few. Each section has a set of superb photographs with lyrical captions and a surprisingly sensible text if you’re prepared to ignore a great many quotations. Photographs and text together give inspiration without being detailed enough to copy slavishly.

Garden Design is concerned more with the structure of the garden and the materials used to create this: space, landform, water, hard landscape such as fences, paving etc. and soft landscape or planting. Many garden books deal solely with plants, so it is a relief to read a work that mentions wider issues with an emphasis less on individual plants than how those plants are used or assembled in garden styles.

Although the book is Australian and has no reference to New Zealand, it is reassuring to see gardens with a familiar feel to them: light, plants and architecture are antipodean and very evocative of similar scenes here. Most of the gardens are quite attainable. They are not the usual immaculate, glossy outdoor rooms that so often feature in books of this genre. Some are homely or even, dare I say, a little unkempt.

This is not a technical resource book but the impressive photography, clear layout and interrelated text make it easy to pick up and browse through.


Julia Williams is a landscape architect currently teaching Landscape Design at Wellington Polytechnic. 


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