Some gardening books happen to be on my shelves, and some are there because I tracked them down.
Books by gardener and garden writer Page Dickey are worth tracking down.
I found a used copy of Gardens in the Spirit of Place online because I was intrigued by the title and because I had grown to appreciate Dickey’s writing in other works.
Gardens cannot exist apart from the particular qualities of particular places, and yet it is far too easy to forget about place when we first begin to design and grow a garden.
Whether we garden in a place already full of character or are looking to inject a bit of character into an otherwise ordinary space, the gardens featured in this photographic book will inform and inspire (even if they might also make us wish for a larger budget of time and money to spend on our gardens!).
Dickey writes about American gardens on farmland, woodland, seaside, and desert from Maine to Texas and on to California. What unites the gardens showcased in this book is that, in Dickey’s words, they “are in harmony with their landscape and celebrate their regionality.”
Here are three things I love about this book:
- It’s inspiring! The writing and photography celebrate such very different gardens that I am reminded to appreciate the unique qualities of my garden rather than wish I had a different kind of climate or soil.
- It’s personal. Dickey has listened to these gardeners and shares their unique perspectives as well as her own. These gardens may have been designed with professional help, but each one is also a very personal expression.
- It celebrates limits. Not everything will grow well in our gardens, but that’s not a bad thing. Rather, it’s a big part of why our own garden will be special.
Who is this book for?
This book will be enjoyed by anyone who loves visiting gardens, but it will probably feel most useful to those who are gardening on a bit of space. It will especially interest those gardeners who are struggling to celebrate the limits of their particular climate or topography.
I was especially encouraged by the words of a Virginia gardener who “welcomes the challenge of gardening in the South, coming to grips with its heat and humidity.” I’m afraid I generally DO NOT welcome the challenge of summer heat and humidity, but I will remember this garden portrait come July.
Is this a book to buy or borrow?
I love collecting gardening books with beautiful photography and slightly out-of-reach inspirational gardens.
I re-read these books year after year. However, if you are not a collector of gardening books, you might prefer to look for this one at your library.
My favorite garden portraits from this book:
- I loved reading about a rural garden set in the dry, stony landscape of the Texas Hill Country. It’s a landscape I know and love, but it was also incredibly helpful to read about how this garden designer relished the limitations of extreme heat and drought.
- I was inspired by a woodland garden in Delaware that prominently features moss, but I appreciated the gardener’s admission that his garden is high maintenance. It’s helpful to know that I can’t achieve the same look unless I am willing to spend time with sprinkler and hose.
- The portrait of a Wisconsin farm garden is one I know I will return to because it seems so simple and attainable. When I am feeling overwhelmed by ambitious garden plans that I may never be able to achieve, I will be encouraged by this reminder that simple terra cotta pots, filled with pelargoniums, and lined up along a path are utterly enchanting and hold up well even against the fanciest, most professional garden designs.