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The Essential Garden Design Workbook   by Rosemary Alexander.

Timber Press, 2004. ISBN 0-88192-664-7  Flexibind: $34.95



You think you might want to be a garden designer.  It’s okay.  We all think that now and then.  How hard could it be?  This book is your reality check.

If you are serious about designing your own or someone else’s garden, you need to read this guide to evaluating, measuring and planning a garden along with all the features within it – walls, water features, paths, gates – the whole thing.  The plants are the icing on the cake, but the preparation for that stage includes design and site assessment, plans and acquiring some necessary skills.

Ms. Alexander is the founder and principal of The English Gardening School at the Chelsea Physic Garden in London.  Her detailed and practical text is written for the hands-on gardeners “who want to rework their gardens to achieve that sought-after ‘designer finish’.”

Lots of illustrations help you understand the instructions for essential design steps of measuring the garden, evaluating the slope, considering drainage, and the flow of sunlight through various seasons.  While Ms. Alexander does not overlook the commonly addressed topics of matching garden to house design, blocking and framing views, building walkways of adequate width, and defining spaces, she also discusses patterns, adding depth, drawing experimental plans and the methods for interpreting plans to potential clients or friends for whom you may be designing.

The text is obviously prepared by an English author, who takes her “torch” (flashlight) with her on initial garden visits.  She focuses on smaller, enclosed gardens of the type the English are familiar with, which are also common in our in-town neighborhoods, but her instructions could be applied to the evaluation and planning of any size property. 

Ms. Alexander explains a disciplined approach to design that clearly defines it as a process, not an event. It gives pause to those of us who have considered it as a profession and enhances our appreciation of those of our friends who follow design as a profession. An education in 292 pages with 100 color photos.



Reviewed by Karin E. Guzy