Book Review: new small Garden by Noel Kingsbury

I have several books on planting and design written by Noel Kingsbury (usually in conjunction with Piet Oudolf) so when I was asked if I wanted to review this new book by Noel I was very keen to say yes.  The book is not however quite what I expected.  This is not as much about naturalistic planting as you might think if you own the other books that I have too.  It is more exactly what it says it is (quel surprise), a book about planting design.
This is not in my opinion a beginners book for gardeners, but it is a book for those who are looking at their gardens and wanting to do something creative with it.  The book talks you through design principles and making the most of your garden space.  The book starts by acknowledging that huge numbers of the population do not own acres of gardens but often have a suburban/urban space.  This is a welcome acknowledgement.  Many articles claim to talk about small gardens but often they are still larger than the average urban area can boast of.

The book goes into great detail.  There are descriptions to lead you into a subject, then case studies and then master classes.  I like this approach.  You can take from it what you want at whatever level you are at.

The chapters take us though layering with plants, plants for small gardens and also mini wildlife havens. There is a good chapter on sustainable small spaces and I was very pleased to see a section on container planting.  When I had a much (much) smaller than I have now container planting was a necessary way of bringing colour and change into the garden.  I have more space now and I still use containers a lot.  There is also a chapter on food growing.

There is a discussion about soil types, which is vitally important to understand if you want to do anything lasting and meaningful with your garden.  There is also discussion about aspect and Noel seems to advocate on behalf of south-facing as best, with west-facing being second best.  Now here I have to confess I once bought a house by leafleting one one side of the road choosing houses I liked the look of.  After we had moved in, a new neighbour on realising this, asked why they had not received a leaflet.  I just explained that their side of the road did not have south facing gardens.  In my current house however whilst again, I admit before going into the house I stood outside with a compass, I would have bought it anyway.  I just needed to know what I was dealing with (south-westerly if you're interested).

The book finishes with a plant selector that is highly detailed.  Not every plant has a picture but I believe that the internet has search engines that can help with that.

At the end of the book is a list of the designers whose work features in the book with their contact details.  This is a nice touch.

The photographs in the book are by Maayke de Ridder and they are good and clear.  They show well what the gardens look like and what is being described.

I like this book and I think it does give inspiration if you are thinking about making changes to your garden and then gives you the information you need to make it happen.

new small Garden is published by Frances Lincoln


  1. Sounds interesting and great to see someone of Noel's calibre focusing on small gardens.

    But like you I disagree with the need for a South-facing garden. You can grow in all aspects, and furthermore, gardens aren't generally one aspect. I currently have an East-facing garden, but part of it is South-facing, another is North-facing and the front is West-facing. There is a lot I can grow in each aspect. South-facing gardens are a nice to have, not essential if you want to make a garden. It's a worrying limitation and might make some people think they cannot do anything with their North or East-facing gardens!


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