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