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