Book Reviews, Gardens

Book Review: The Thoughtful Gardener: An Intelligent Approach to Garden Design

April 23, 2017

In a leap of faith Jinny Blom gave up her “sensible job” to become a garden designer. No such leap of faith is required to fully immerse yourself in The Thoughtful Gardener, an autobiographical journey which traces the evolution of her twenty-year career in garden design.

A natural enthusiast Blom is both practical and inspired, with a passion for reading the landscape. Each project she designs begins with a meticulous process of observation followed by an exploration of the site’s natural and man-made features. Through embracing the cultural landscape stories emerge that reveal the genius of the place and provide a framework for design.

Photo credit: Andrew Montgomery

For Blom design is a matter of intelligence and appropriateness, qualities which she generously shares with her readers. The Thoughtful Gardener is both beautifully conceived and sensitively executed. Gracefully written, Blom’s humanistic approach to landscape design and her passion for the natural world illuminate every page.

Photo credit: Andrew Montgomery

Individual chapters flow seamlessly beginning with Blom’s awakening followed by a practical explanation of her design process. From seeing and understanding, the reader is led through text on structure, harmony and rooting (planting). In the concluding chapter the reader is liberated, secure in the knowledge that the making of a garden is but one piece of the larger natural world and its processes.

Photo credit: Andrew Montgomery

Harboring a “near medieval inclination towards manual labor” Blom is a practical gardener for whom gardening is described as a form of transcendentalism and planting a personal process akin to creating a painting. Good soil is her holy grail and she has developed her own planting style in which she uses a relatively limited palette, an approach based upon replicating matrices that are close to nature, but not wild.

Photo credit: Andrew Montgomery

Blom believes that the gardener is the garden and that while design is a noble pursuit it is secondary to the act of gardening itself. She believes that unless you garden it is difficult to make a garden for someone else and understanding the man hours it takes to maintain a garden is critical to its long-term success.

Photo credit: Andrew Montgomery

The Thoughtful Gardener is illustrated with extensive full color photographs, black and white sketches and five case studies of built projects. Ranging from an “anti-garden” in Sussex which asks the question “What is wild?” to a design that aspires to blend a new building into the ‘raw and sensitive” landscape of Kenya, the case studies compellingly illustrate Blom’s design principles.

Photo credit: Andrew Montgomery

“Things that work together in natural harmony are beautiful,” notes Blom, “We depend upon ourselves for happiness so following a creative urge is essential to that happiness.” Whatever your path to happiness may be it will be more than enriched by reading The Thoughtful Gardener, a work that each and every person who loves to garden will read often.

This review appeared in Leaflet A Massachusetts Horticultural Society Publication, April, 2017.

Copyright © 2017 Patrice Todisco — All Rights Reserved

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