....... at the fulsome praise this book has been given by previous reviewers. It certainly includes some good images or rather what might have been good images if they had been better printed. They are sadly let down by the publishers' decision to print them matt on soft paper. This means that they appear to be very slightly out of focus and are positively tiring to look at for any length of time (at least to my eyes). The decision must have driven the photographers to distraction and seriously undermines the book as a visual or even coffee table guide to naturalistic gardening.
Is it a planting guide for beginners? Unfortunately not, because the breadth of garden ecologies and design it covers means that individual plant choice has to be limited to the point it seems almost arbitrary. Book format triumphs over content. Anyone looking to inform themselves on how to approach naturalistic gardening would be far better off getting Noel Kingsbury's earlier book 'New Perennial Gardening' which I still regularly refer to after many years for its comprehensive plant guides and its informative approach to garden ecologies. It is a superior book in every sense.
In terms of the gardening areas covered by 'Natural Garden Style', it is very hard to find any decent book attempting to deal with such a broad span of planting and design challenge - sun, shade, water, embellishment. Keith Wiley's recent 'On the Wild Side: Experiments in New Naturalism' is by no means perfect but is a readable, honest and, at the very least, far better printed attempt.
The challenge of covering almost the full gamut of naturalistic gardening in one book is probably a bridge too far for any writer. It will be necessary for even a would-be gardener to buy several books to cover to such a huge task. And, realistically, in the longer term it will take a good many. I saw that Piet Oudolf's 'Designing with Plants' and 'Dream Plants for the Natural Garden' are recommended in Noel Kingsbury's section on Further Reading. Both deal with naturalistic planting in sun in great detail with a decent nod to shade along the way. Anyone looking for solid information on plant performance illuminated by inspirational if slightly opinionated eccentricity should seriously consider them as part of an alternative to a "one book fits all" solution. Any of Beth Chatto's books on shade gardening are beautifully written and well illustrated with good plant and planting information. For me, 'The Shade Garden: Shade-loving Plants for Year-round Interest ' is a constant sources of reference and stimulus.
Having such a high regard for 'New Perennial Gardening' I am disappointed to give what must seem a savage review of 'Natural Garden Style' but I am afraid it deserves it.