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on 15 November 2012
What a beautiful book!
Full of glorious photos and a lovely story of a delightful gardener and his garden to go with it.
The titled made me first buy this American book; as I have always been interested in garden design and how the plants are planted to give a layered effect. The photos by Rob Cardillo, (incidentally he also did the photos for the book on the splendid American garden Chanticleer), are a joy to see and study how the plants associate with each other.
Actually, its a book I find myself referring to a lot over my New Zealand early summer season, nice ideas on every page.
A well recommended read for gardeners all over the world. Most likely be the best book of the decade for me. Enjoy.
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on 2 March 2014
The title of the book "The Layered Garden" and the subtitle "Design lessons for year round beauty" seemed to indicate some novel approaches to garden design, particularly as the author describes himself as a designer and plant collector. "Layered" turns out simply to refer to planting ground-cover, mid level and taller plants (trees and climbers) - a concept with which all gardeners are familiar, and which the author recognises is not original. It is also used, confusingly, to refer to planting for sequential flowering through the seasons, and sometimes is used loosely with other meanings too. I thought that as a "plant collector" the author might have followed in the footsteps of Banks, Forrest, Wilson et al., but it turns out that he means he is a plantaholic, acquiring as many plants as possible, from nurseries rather than the Himalayas. There is little here that can be recognised as garden design, and the author states that he avoids the use of plans, and prefers to plant on impulse - which many gardeners would regard as the antithesis of design. I was left wondering what he actually offers his clients. Perhaps the answer lies in his repeated declaration of Love for the Beauty of flowers, which may be a novel idea to some non-gardeners.

So what does the book actually offer? Of the 300 pages, roughly three-quarters consists of photographs, leaving perhaps 75 pages of text plus captions. About half describes the author's own garden, essentially based on photographs of adequate quality, mostly lacking detailed descriptions and without any plans that would allow the reader a detailed understanding of what is going on, or the opportunity to try the plant combinations illustrated. Some photos illustrate extensive patches of bare fences. There is a liberal use of tender plants but no information about their cultivation, labour and cost involved. The second half is titled "Signature plants through the seasons" and focuses on a few favourite genera. Thus there are 14 photographs of galanthus cultivars, with one page of text and some notes on cultivation; and others featured include, for example, hellebores, irises, magnolias and hydrangeas. Here the standard of photography is good, but really this is a personal selection of plants which the author grows rather than any systematic survey, and it is of limited value unless he is your personal guru.

Inevitably my reaction to the book is coloured by the many others that I have read, on systematic approaches to garden design (e.g. John Brookes), personal descriptions of the development of a garden (e.g. Beth Chatto, Rosemary Verey, Christopher Lloyd), or designing with plants - e.g. the superbly illustrated work of Andrew Lawson, most of which include detailed planting plans. Unfortunately the Layered Garden is not in this league, although I can appreciate the author's obvious enthusiasm.
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This volume seemed dear by current standards for gardening books, so went on my Wish List; but no-one bit, so I succumbed. I'm not disappointed, nor do I think I've been in the least overcharged - it's a splendid gardening book, although whether it's up your street (or garden path) will depend.

This is an American author writing about an American Garden; but it has much the same climate as the UK - Zone 6, in fact, meaning winters down to an average minus 15C - and everything he writes about is applicable over here.

I was as much attracted to the book by the photographer, Rob Cardillo, whose work I've encountered elsewhere, as by the well-known author (who is perhaps best known over here as a breeder of the modern hellebore), and the illustrations are plentiful, appearing on every page, and of the very highest quality.

This is a very personal book - in effect, the story of the making of the author's garden at Brandywine cottage, named for the historically famous area in which it lies. He refers frequently to his "design", but this is not garden design in the modern professional sense; it's actually all about plant association, selection and placement - just page after page of what could easily be English cottage and woodland garden. He calls it "layered gardening", but although it's a new name, it's not a new concept, having been practiced for centuries - as he acknowledges on the frontispiece page by quoting a definition of it from Francis Bacon's work "On Gardening", written in 1625.

The author is a bit of a romantic and writes in that vein, albeit very lucidly and pleasantly, and is a fervent admirer of several very well-known English gardners, which helps to place the book even more firmly in our own traditional context. It's very flattering to find such a well-known figure of the international gardening establishment agreeing with me in every aspect bar one - hence my admiration for his book ! The one area on which we don't agree is weedkillers. He eschews them, but his garden is half the size of mine, he's much younger than me and he has a full-time helper in his partner; I'm surrounded on all sides by thistles, nettles, docks, dandelions,fireweed, buttercups, and every other kind of ebullient British pasture and hedgerow weed - so if I didn't use weedkiller, I would have nothing else. I also firmly believe it's not the weedkillers that do the eco-damage, but the people who misuse them...
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on 21 August 2013
I can't pinpoint why but this book is different from most garden books. I think it relates to the flare for garden design that the authors have. Lots of lovely colour photo's to inspire together with relevant information.
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on 5 March 2013
I love this book. There is hours of pleasure within its pages. It is well written with absolutely beautiful photos and has already become a favourite reference book for ideas and plant combinations. Love it!
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on 3 April 2013
I read about this book in the Irish Times weekend magazine and bought a copy. The illustrations are superb and the ideas David Culp puts forward echo what I have been trying to achieve in my own garden. Well worth having.
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on 12 May 2013
Rather disappointing overall. Second section the best where information about a range of pants was supplied. First part too folksy.
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on 16 January 2013
Obviously written by passionate plant person - lots of good ideas to try and enjoy in all areas of garden
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