ISSUE 37  |  Style on a Budget

Required Reading: Gardens in Detail

September 16, 2014 6:30 PM

BY Jeanne Rostaing

In the biographical notes about Emma Reuss in her new book, Gardens in Detail, her achievements are listed: diploma from the Royal Horticulture Society, Best Trade Journalist in the Garden Media Guild Awards, BBC contributor, etc., all quite notable.  However, I was particularly struck by the mention of her own gardening efforts which take place in her “compact” London garden.  Aha! Another gardener with a tiny city plot who dreams of estates with vast meadows, endless perennial borders, koi ponds the size of Lake Champlain, and miles of hedges. 

Photographs courtesy of the Monacelli Press.

Above:Gardens in Detail by Emma Reuss is available from Amazon for $28.46.

It’s no wonder she has written this book.  It is the perfect volume to pick up after a day spent digging in your little backyard and wishing you had the budget and room to think expansively.  Reuss has selected 100 outstanding gardens from all over the world.  They include every kind of style you can think of from a 15th century Japanese dry sand garden to a walled prairie by Piet Oudolf to an acid green Martha Schwartz creation made of plastic trees and shrubs. She dazzles you with gorgeous photos and then turns practical with detailed deconstructions of the features of each garden… how they were created and why they work.  It’s informative and fascinating.

Above: An unusual English country garden designed by Acres Wild in Hampshire UK. The designers were faced with 2.5 acres of empty grassland which they turned into a natural looking but controlled space with sweeps of meadow grass and curving hedges and borders.

Above: An urban garden in Sí£o Paulo, Brazil is an uncluttered space designed by Renata Tilli to merge the house with the outside and show off the clients’ prized art collection.

Above: Artist Robert Irwin collaborated with plantsman Jim Duggan to create a spectacular living sculpture on the campus of the Getty Center in Los Angeles, CA.

Above: This alternate view of Irwin and Duggan’s landscape design for the Getty Center shows how varied the design is.  The bougainvillea  “trees” in the background are actually steel supports for the flowering vines which cascade out of them and form an umbrella of brightly colored blooms.

Above: The client of this tri-level penthouse wanted a low-maintenance outdoor environment with plenty of room to relax and entertain.  Secret Gardens of Sydney, Australia gave him all that and more. Using durable blackbutt eucalyptus as the striking decking, the designers created an inviting complex with a pond surrounded by drought tolerant plants that can withstand the hot sun and strong winds encountered 29 stories up in the air.  

Above: Secret Gardens also created a dramatic circular lawn on a terrace overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The low-maintenance artificial turf is surrounded by classic formal accents such as topiary, Japanese boxwood hedges, and a pair of huge lavender bushes that flank the entrance to an area of raised seating.

Above: Landscape architect Raymond Jungles transformed a 1940s house in Key West, FL by surrounding it with lush plantings and inventive water features.  To enter the house, visitors must make their way over a shallow pond by navigating an asymmetrical arrangement of stepping stones reminiscent of a traditional Japanese style zigzag bridge. 

Above: Composed of unusual elements: red sandstone arranged as though it has exploded out of the earth; a dead tree; and drifts of succulents, a small garden in Sydney, Australia is the inspired work of landscape architect Vladimar Sitta

Above: An urban London garden echoes the bold color scheme of the client’s home and extends the living space out of doors. Landscape designer Charlotte Rowe has softened the black and gray hardscape elements with silver leaved olive trees and the loose chartreuse foliage of Hakonechloa macra “Alboaurea”.

When you’re tired of your uninspiring allotment, put down your pruners and pick up Gardens in Detail.  It is a liberating armchair travel book as well as a trove of great ideas. 

For a look behind the gates of the private gardens designers make for themselves, take a look at Contemporary Designers’ Own Gardens.

Check out other recommended gardening books: Plans for Small Gardens and Private Oasis.