Top critical review
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Long on Variety, Short on Details and Images
on 4 July 2007
Before evaluating this book, I must say I'm stunned by the amount of work that must have gone on to identify 1001 excellent gardens around the world and to describe and illustrate them. Thank you, Rae Spencer-Jones, and your 70 contributors for this incredible effort.
If you are like me, you'll be overwhelmed by the sheer number of gardens. As I looked in every area of the world I've ever visited, I saw or read about gardens that I wished I had known about on prior trips. As an example, the book describes a garden within 10 miles of my home that I've never visited because people have told me that it was nothing special. Since the book has both a fine description and an excellent photograph, I can see that I've been misinformed. I would undoubtedly love this garden and plan to visit it over the weekend.
If you love gardens, you would be foolish not to buy and treasure this book as a resource if you ever travel. Why? You can start with the list of gardens in the areas where you are going and do more research from there to see which ones will be most satisfying to you. I don't know of another alternative place to start for those who want to take garden tours on their own while traveling.
That said, any book that attempts to describe 1001 gardens is going to have a big drawback . . . not much detail about any one garden. In fact, although there are hundreds of images in the book, most gardens don't have any images.
That weakness is compounded by the book being produced in a small page size that resembles Petit Larousse.
Did they miss any good gardens? I don't know, but every garden I've ever visited and enjoyed was in the book. I was surprised, however, to see that the images for those gardens often understated the primary appeal of the gardens. But tastes do differ from person to person.
In examining the photographs, I got the sense that the architecture, natural backdrop, and sculptures had a big influence on what gardens were selected. If that's true (and I wouldn't know unless I visited a few hundred more gardens than I've been to), perhaps this is more a book about outdoor splendor than about plants. That's an impression anyway that the images present. If you are a huge flower lover, please realize that not all of these gardens feature flowers as their main appeal.
The gardens are grouped geographically, beginning in North America and moving east. Not surprisingly, the list is heavy with English and Scottish gardens. If you plan to go the United Kingdom, I suspect this book is even more of a treasure than if you plan to visit the United States. Nevertheless, I'm struck by how many countries are either not represented or barely represented. Clearly, people must garden almost everywhere. I'm not sure what the explanation is.
I was left, however, dissatisfied with the book. I suspect that it would have worked better with some greater attempt to give comparable descriptions of the gardens so that those who have a particular taste in gardens could have sorted out just those of most interest. I also wonder if a project like this one shouldn't be done in electronic form instead of physical form so that size of the overall volume isn't so cost constrained.
I plan to keep a copy, but I'll hope that another edition comes out that does more with the concept.
But in the meantime, I will thank God that this work is available to me. I humbly thank all the contributors for their hard work.