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Gardens of the World: The Great Traditions Hardcover – 7 Oct 2010
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An ambitious book… brilliant colour photographs and a perceptively critical text. (Gardens Illustrated)
Stuart's thoughtful text takes a pensive look at where the English get their passion for flowers and why every country has such unique gardening traditions. (Amateur Photographer)
Very few books cover so much ground geographically and historically, and Rory Stuart has obviously travelled the world and thought about the gardens very seriously while he photographed them. (Oxford Times)
Rory Stuart has succeeded in his brave attempt to portray the great traditional garden styles. Nicely illustrated with good examples and interesting text. (English Garden)
If you want to spend the winter swotting up on the history and culture of gardens around the world, this book should ensure that you'll be fully clued up come spring. (Scotsman)
An intelligently illustrated overview of garden history through the ages. (Country Life)
Rambles around the globe with an eye firmly set on different cultures and ages of garden design. (Irish Times)
All gardening is borrowing and because of the way the book is organised, Stuart can frequently demonstrate how much one tradition may influence another. . . The scope of this book is extraordinarily wide, but Stuart's narrative steers clear of bog. It's a pleasure to read. (Independent)
An exciting book, simple and clear, illustrated with Stuart's own beautiful photographs. (Ham & High)
My top choice in the category of beautiful books. Stuart has been a schoolmaster and is now a tour leader and garden-owner outside Rome. He writes with clear authority, but is effacingly modest about the foundations on which his global book rests. The colour pictures are stunning and every one of them seems to be his own, whether in Iran, Japan or America. Years of travel have gone into his survey, and as a result he presents gardens with an incisive understanding of their distinctive relationship to nature. Some great comments find a place too. (Robin Lane Fox Financial Times)
A little uplift doesn't go amiss in midwinter, and there is no better place to find it than in Stuart's glorious book. He sets out to discover why gardeners around the world have always taken pleasure in growing for beauty as well as for the pot. It is a proper, scholarly history of the pleasure garden. But Stuart's elegant prose is a delight to read, and his magnificently illustrated survey of the great gardening traditions of Islamic and Oriental cultures, as well as more familiar English, Italian and US ones, it is a wonderful introduction to the subject. (Daily Mail)
A delightful round-the-world tour, perfectly illustrating he culture and aesthetics of sundry pleasure gardens: Italian, American, Islamic and Oriental. (Scotsman)
This one-man Grand Tour places him ahead of many stay-at-home theorisers and I applaud his personal and engaging account. (Hortus)
This new book by a rare polymath and a skilful author covers ground examined by no other. It gives appetising descriptions of notable gardens in a range of countries, many of which will be unfamiliar to British garden visitors… Excellent colour photographs illustrate the book. (Garden)
Aims to increase our understanding of a garden's meaning in order to enhance our enjoyment of the whole garden experience. (Professional Gardener)
A wide-ranging andfascinating investigation of the great traditions of international garden design. (Homes & Interiors Scotland)
Stuart's style is relaxed, often self-deprecating. But it is not just beginners who will gain enormously from this discerning book. You would have to be extremely erudite (or very self-assured) not to find much here to take on board. (Historic Gardens Review)
Reviews of Reflections from a Garden (with Susan Hill)
'One of the best garden books of the season ... For its thoughtfulness and provocativeness it rises head and shoulders over most other recent gardening books, like a peacock strutting among starlings.'
'One for the connoisseur of literate writing who also appreciates horticultural wisdom'
'An almost perfect gardening book'
Top customer reviews
a readable review of world garden traditions by someone who has obviously travelled much and thought a lot about style. Most readers will find it interesting (and useful) to
look beyond their own comfortable tradition towards others far away in distance and time. So this is Garden Learning at it's best. Designers will want to start with the chapter on the Japanese garden.
Stuart attempts to cover a huge subject, contrasting and comparing in an original way the development of the ornamental garden as interpreted by the major world gardening cultures. It has resulted in a large format hardback running to 250 pages which highlights the differences and the links between the resulting garden art, studying the philosophies and politics which have driven the progress of gardening for pleasure as opposed to mere utility, sustenance or profit.
It starts with an argument for his chosen selection; he explains, for instance, why the great gardens of France and Germany, wonderful perhaps but derivative, do not feature in this work. After a brief overview chapter in which he outlines his thesis, Stuart begins with his first great garden tradition: that derived from Islam.
In this and subsequent chapters, not always politically correct, he runs through the social history of pleasure gardening in very diverse world cultures including China, Japan and Italy, where he now lives. The gardening nation of England is awarded two chapters, one on the Landscape Park and another on the Flower Garden, while a final chapter looks at the USA and why it has yet to create its own garden style.
This book is apparently aimed at students of garden history and the thinking garden visitor, both of whom will need to keep their wits about them and may be required to take notes! If you are rusty on the chronology of Arab rulers prepare yourself for a lesson and when you move on to China and Japan similar treats await. At times I am convinced Stuart trips himself up but the background is useful and can be returned to later on a second read. I am looking forward to having time for this myself.
Illustrations are lavishly provided and, to save the casual reader from delving too far into the text, annotated in some detail. As a professional garden tour guide and with no photo credits apparent, I suspect many of the photographs are taken by the author.
There is much to admire and much to learn from this book so it would be a shame if the rather highbrow tone put off some readers. At the coffee table level alone it gives pleasure with its photographs of famous and less familiar gardens but persevere and you may find yourself irresistibly drawn into a more cerebral and critical view of the art of garden creation.
I immodestly call myself a plantsman but imagine Stuart would not assume such a title himself - his interest seems to lie in dissecting the background, the process and the result - the technical details of the art of the garden more than the plants and flowers which adorn it. That's fine with me because what he offers is a fresh look at the subject from an alternative viewpoint.
The effect on a humble gardener like myself is similar to my one and only meeting with Roy Strong as a young garden designer: eye opening, inspiring and leaving me wanting more.....much more. I am delighted there is room alongside the RHS encyclopaedias and Expert books on my bookshelf for a serious and stimulating tome like this.
This stimulating book has a cover price of £30 but is available from our bookshop via Amazon at £18.36
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