Thursday, 6 April 2017

Book Review - The Thoughtful Gardener by Jinny Blom

I was really pleased to be asked to review this book as when I heard about it I was immediately interested.  Jinny Blom is a gold medal winning Chelsea Flower Show garden designer and has worked with both Prince Charles and Prince Harry. Jinny's design work has taken her across continents and she has written for The Times and other publications.  Jinny has designed more than 250 gardens since setting up her practice in 2000 and in this new book she shares the knowledge, experience and philosophy that this body of work demonstrates.
What makes Jinny's work stand out is that she takes care to understand the landscape that she is working with.  All the examples in the book are good examples yet probably my favourite is the last one in the book in Inverness-shire.  There is a photograph on page 252 of the retained original mirror-pool is quite stunning.  Jinny explains how this project was part archeological and part restoration.  It sounds fascinating and it has all been created in sympathy with and in respect to the history of the garden.

The book leads you: chapter by chapter, step by step.  So first Jinny explains her own journey into garden design.  Then the book is divided into sections, the first being 'Seeing', which is very much different from looking.  , then moving onto Understanding, Structuring, Harmonizing, Rooting and Liberating.  Each chapter within these sections expands a little further Jinny's philosophy and knowledge.  The thread running through the book is that in order to design, one has to understand and really into the heart of the land to be transformed.  Then you can strip away what you need to and rebuild to reveal the new transformed landscape.  There is also a case study at the end of the sections.  These case studies illustrate perfectly the points being made and also show the breadth of Jinny's work.  The garden in Kenya case study particularly took my breath away.

You will learn about researching, planning, structure and context.  There is an extensive section on different types of plants which is not a catalogue of  'use this specific plant here', but is rather 'this is how you can use this type of plant.'  I really liked this approach.

Probably at this point I should mention the photography in the book.  It is by several different photographers and it is exceptional.  Light and colour are particularly captured well.

This is not a 'how to' book, despite every aspect about design is covered.  It is a book to give inspiration and one to make the reader think.  I wonder if there are two thoughtful gardeners being referred to in the title, the one writing and the one reading.

I enjoyed reading this book, it is, as the sub-title states, an intelligent approach to garden design.  It is not a quick read as I wanted to linger on the pages, I wanted to properly understand what was being explained.  If you are interested in the philosophy behind garden design then this book is for you.

The Thoughtful Gardener is published by Jacqui Small

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