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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Knowledgebase record #235

Understanding Garden Design by Vanessa Nagel, 2010

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson
Review date: 2014-04-01

Understanding Garden Design cover

“Understanding Garden Design,” by Portland-based landscape designer Vanessa Gardner Nagel(published in 2010) is so well organized and structured it could easily be used as a textbook, but that may unfortunately imply dullness to what is a very readable and engaging book.

To get the best out of this book, however, the author does expect work on the part of the reader, leading you through the steps that a professional designer would follow. Much of this work is required before you reach the fun part of choosing plants. These aren’t discussed until Chapter 8, and then only as elements of structure, using the analogy of punctuation to describe the different selections (some plants are commas, others are parentheses, etc.).

Building with each chapter is a hypothetical garden design using the principles discussed that effectively ties all the concepts together. Even if you decide to hire a designer, this book will help you speak and understand the language and be better at expressing your desires. You will also find very useful a whole chapter on working with contractors.

Excerpted from the Spring 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

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