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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase


Knowledgebase record #238


Stonescaping by Jan Whitner, 1992

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson
Review date: 2014-07-01

Stonescaping cover

Two traits stand out in Jan Kowalczewski Whitner's collected writings: her passion for stonework and her considerable skill at using words to describe a garden. Both are apparent in her first book from 1992, “Stonescaping.” Also apparent is her training as an historian as she expertly traces the history of stone in gardens as it has been used in Chinese, Japanese, and European traditions. She then presents simple but engaging descriptions of home-scale gardens that adapt and meld these traditions.

This would be plenty to fill the first book by most authors, but Jan had more to offer. She continued with an extensive practicum on building everything from stone hardscapes to rock gardens and even hypertufa birdbaths. This combination of history, design, and construction is what makes this book so unusual.

One paragraph from the chapter on rock gardens demonstrates this synergy. “If you have a flat site on which you wish to build a rock garden, use a construction technique first developed by ancient Chinese gardeners to introduce different levels to the composition by digging out low areas and then mounding the excavated earth into ridges and plateaus above them. Use half-buried, weathered stones to replicate outcrops, and work from the bottom of the rock garden toward the top.”

Excerpted from the Summer 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.


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