Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Book Review - The Private Gardens of England, edited by Tanya Compton

When I saw that this book was going to be published I thought it looked really interesting.  I do enjoy going to visit gardens and there is always a feeling of excitement to get to see a private garden that is not designed primarily for public consumption and possibley does not open very often if ever.  A whole book dedicated to private gardens then has to be a real treat.  When the book arrived I found that I was not wrong, it is worthy of recommendation.
It is not a cheap book, the price on the dust-cover is £75,(I will return to this later).  A book that costs this much has to be that good and thankfully it does deliver.  It certainly feels like a book that costs a lot of money.  It has weight, it is not a book to balance delicately on your knee.  Thirty-five gardens are covered in great detail; divided up under headings such as "New Garden: Field to Paradise" and "The English Country Garden, Updated Classicism" and "The Collaborative Urge".  At first glance I realised I had visited a couple of the gardens, some of them I had heard of but not visited and some (most) were completely new to me.  I liked this as it meant I was learning about gardens I might otherwise have not heard of.  Most are now on that ever-growing list of  'if I ever have a chance I will visit.'  There is a helpful list of websites for the gardens that do open.

Some of the gardens are parts of large estates, such as Petworth House that I had joy of visiting last year.  Some of the gardens are much smaller such as Malplaquet House, which is a truly quite fascinating house and garden.

The photography in the book is also worthy of note, there is a list of acknowledgements at the back of the book of the photographers who have contributed and they include Andrew Lawson, Clive Nichols and Sabina Ruber.  

There is a very important point about this book that could be easily overlooked when first considering it; it is that it is edited by Tania Compton.  I see you looking a little blank as if I am trying to make a point that you are not quite getting.  The narratives for each garden are written by the owners of the gardens.  This takes the book to a completely different level from nicely written descriptions from an external visitor.  It gives it a far more personal feeling and you know that the person that loves the garden has taken pleasure in explaining its creation/development and the reason why it is so loved.

I said I would return to the £75 price; it is easy to say do not let this put you off but, lets face it, most of us have not got £75 to spend a book for pleasure no matter how beautiful and interesting it is.  Thankfully (for the purchaser, probably not the publisher) it is already on publication day costing far (far) less to buy from a well known internet based book seller.  I have to say that this is a good thing as I think it now far more likely that the book might get bought and read.  It also means I can recommend it whole-heartedly knowing I am not recommending something that might make even a generous christmas present buyer think twice.

Published by Constable, November 3rd 2015

9 comments :

  1. Sounds like a great book, especially with such esteemed photographers. I'm a big fan of both Clive Nichol's and Andrew Lawson's work. The Hadspen book that Clive did the photography for was stunning...As you note, I imagine reading an account of a garden from the people who know it best, must be illuminating and engaging. I shall look for this book : )

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, I think the personal accounts do make it a bit more special than other similar titles.

      Delete
  2. I get so fed up of books about English gardens, (of which there seem to be several a year) which of course exclude Wales. And Scotland and N. Ireland too, of course - but when you're a couple of miles from the border it feels a bit rough.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If it helps at all I mainly have books on Welsh gardens as that's where I spend a lot of my time. Admittedly they do generally have to contain a chapter on Portmeirion ......

      Delete
  3. I feel a bit of garden visiting on the cards. Thanks for the review. I hadn't spotted this book. It's just the sort I would like too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Karen - I think you'd love it. Fantastic photography as well as great narrative.

      Delete
  4. For me, the pricing is a real issue. How are bookstores going to survive when publishers set stupid prices (in a physical store the price may be £5 or so below that) but an online emporium can sell for under £19 and still, presumably, make a profit?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi John. I have no knowledge of the profit margins of books/booksellers. It is clearly a high quality book and it would not be cheap to produce. I'd be surprised to see it at £5 but you never know!

      Delete
  5. I have already so many books on English gardens, but as the owners have written their own garden story makes it interesting for me. The price is too high, but I´ll look at the internet sellers. I often buy gardening books in second hand shops, but I don´t suppose I can wait so long. The time it´s for sale for about 10 pounds takes some time and there will be other and new English private gardens.
    Thank you for your review.

    ReplyDelete

All comments are moderated.