Book Review: Making A Garden

If you are confronted with a blank canvas of a garden or want to drastically change an existing garden and don’t know where to start then reading Matthew Wilson’s Making A Garden would be a good starting point.

The book sets out to talk the amateur gardener through the thought processes of designing a garden.  It considers all the usual areas such as soil, aspect, colour, garden style, light and texture.  The writing style is warm and friendly as if you are chatting with Matthew over a cup of tea and each subject is condensed into one or two pages and reads as a stand alone essay or article.  Definitely an easy book to dip in and out of.

To illustrate the topics in the first section of the book, ‘Thought Process’, brief cases studies have been included of many of the gardens featured in Landscape Man, the series Matthew recently hosted.  I felt that the case studies could have been expanded upon.  I would have liked to have seen some after photographs as well as the before photographs and sketches.

The second section, ‘Vision’, gives advice on considering space, focal points and journeys.  I was particularly interested in this section and quite taken with Matthew’s description of the typical garden as a ‘washing machine’ garden.  With a big hole of lawn in the middle and all the plants flung to the edges.  This describes my front garden which I know I need to sort out and having read the book my mind has started to ponder various schemes  for it.  Who knows maybe I will redesign it completely instead of taking my usual haphazard letting it evolve approach which has obviously failed this time.

The final  section, ‘Realisation’, is made up of a number of sketches of various gardens that Matthew has  worked on with information on how problems and difficulties were addressed.   Each garden has a planting plan along side demonstrating how plants can be combined together to create an effect.  I felt that as the book was aimed, in my opinion, at amateur gardeners  then it would have been helpful to illustrate more of the plants in the plans with photographs to help the reader imagine the overall effect. This last section also provides advice on whether to do the work yourself or employ a designer, how to draw out plans simply and how to break down the project into achievable chunks.

There is a lot of sound and sensible advice in Making A Garden.  This isn’t a ‘how to’ book in the sense that it gives instructions on making a pond, building a wall, laying a patio.  This is a ‘how to’ book that makes you sit down and think about what it is you want to achieve: do you really need to gut the whole garden or are there some plants you could keep; if you dig up those large plants it may let in more light but could also mean your neighbour is looking into your garden (something I discovered the hard way); where is the best place to site the patio?.  If you take the time to ponder, consider and aspire you should hopefully avoid the mistakes that are illustrated in some of the gardens featured in the book and end up with a garden that does everything you want and is wonderful to be in.

Disclosure: I was provided with a copy of this book by Quadrille

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11 Comments Add yours

  1. lindasgarden says:

    lovely review Helen

  2. making a thinking garden, instead of a just happened one.

  3. Holleygarden says:

    Good review. Sounds like a great book. Funny thought about a ‘washing machine’ garden. I love that type of garden!

  4. “Washing machine garden.” Perfect.

  5. tina says:

    Taking time to ponder is I think the absolutely best way to make a garden-then get the book and go from there. I would appreciate seeing his sketches and the problems with some of the gardens. I find problems all the time and need help dealing with them. One such problem is the pond liner and garden. Thanks so much for you input on it. We have ripped it out and are redoing it. I only wish I had known how to do it in the first place and hope it works well now. I never thought about the water dropping-very valid point.

    Not sure if I’ve talked to you yet this year but at any rate I wanted to say to have a great year!!!

  6. Kathleen says:

    Happy New Year Helen! The cover is very appealing! I would pick it up based on that alone and flip thru.
    I’d love to follow you on Pinterest ~ I don’t see your link tho? I have a button on my sidebar if you’d like to connect.
    I don’t know how you find time ~ you have lots going on! I’m not nearly as ambitious plus it’s cold here now so it’s a good pastime for winter.

  7. Sounds interesting…I had that washing machine garden but continue to work on it…needs some more redoing…

  8. Victoria says:

    Good review, Helen, but I am getting a bit pissed off with publishers reissuing books in a confusing way. This appears to be the paperback version of Landscape Man: Making a Garden, which came out two years ago to accompany Matthew’s wonderful TV series.
    Quadrille have lopped off the “Landscape Man” bit of the title, and put a new photograph on the front to make it look more like a general gardening book. Trouble is, it also looks, at first glance, like a completely DIFFERENT book.
    Mitchell Beazley did the same thing with Matthew’s book New Gardening: How to Garden in a Changing Climate. It was reissued as a paperback last year as Nature’s Gardener: How to Garden in the 21st century. I picked up a review copy in the office, thinking Matthew had a new book out, and it was only when I flicked through it, I realised it was the same as New Gardening. Luckily, this was before I lugged it home – but what if I’d bought it on Amazon?
    I love Matthew’s stuff, but not enough to buy the book twice!

  9. Christina says:

    I always enjoy your reviews Helen; Probably most people don’t think enough about what they actually want from their garden or what is feasible a good book could help with this. Christina

  10. Enjoyed reading your review and the idea of the cup of tea style of delivery. I am in mid think about turning the wreckage of my garden into something lovely…..so much to fit in and while the boundaries down and strewn limbs of old sycamores, almost impossible to think straight.

  11. This sounds like a good book to recommend to some of my friends who have a hard time breaking down what it really is that they want out of their gardens. This really is key to creating a garden that you enjoy working and relaxing in as well.

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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