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garden and landscape design reading list
reading lists:
   landscape design
   garden essay
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video reviews
book reviews



lawn thoughts
Experts explain design principles and gardening techniques and share their secrets to success.
("more info" links to the book's Amazon page)

Alexander, Christopher, et al.
A Pattern Language: Towns - Buildings - Construction (ISBN: 0195019199)
Eight years in the making, this mind-expanding dictionary of "patterns" shows how people can design spaces -- outdoors and indoors, intimate and public -- that fill their deepest needs for connection and privacy. Hailed by Architectural Design as "perhaps the most important book on architectural design published this century."
more info

Allison, James.
Water in the Garden: A Complete Guide to the Design and Installation of Ponds, Fountains, Streams, and Waterfalls (ISBN: 0821218395)
This book's many color photos and drawings illustrate both practical steps and finished water gardens. Allison devotes separate chapters to different elements of water gardens--waterfalls, fountains, stepping stones, decks, and more. Includes a section describing plants and animals and another on maintenance.
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Brookes, John.
The Book of Garden Design (ISBN: 0025166956)
Well-known landscape designer Brookes advocates deciding what “look” you are aiming for, then building the garden to achieve it. Step-by-step advice at a textbook level of detail guides you through the process of designing a garden. Color photos showcase different styles and components. Diagrams help you choose or develop a design.
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Brookes, John.
The Small Garden: How to become your own garden designer (ISBN: 1854358855)
In this extremely detailed book with many illustrations, Brookes evaluates different hardscape materials, plants, and furnishings for how they contribute to the garden. The book showcases more than thirty examples of well-designed small gardens.
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Christopher, Thomas.
Water-Wise Gardening: America's Backyard Revolution (ISBN: 0671738569)
Christopher travels across the U.S. exploring the ways that many gardeners are redesigning their gardens to need less water or to capture more of it.
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Colborn, Nigel.
The Garden Floor : From gravel gardens to camomile lawns (ISBN: 1570761663)
Much of this book is devoted to presenting thirteen types of garden floor, with a general description followed by a step-by-step plan for each type. However, it also includes a hefty dose of Colborn's practical advice about garden design, offered in his characteristic style: creative yet bite-sized points.
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Colborn, Nigel.
Shortcuts to Great Gardens (ISBN: 0316150525)
Colborn packs this volume with practical steps that will give your garden the mature feel of much older gardens without the wait. Follow the advice in this book to create a garden that exudes permanence and that will continue to improve in beauty and grandeur.
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Cox, Jeff.
Landscaping with Nature: Using Nature's Designs to Plan Your Yard (ISBN: 0878579117)
Cox describes how to bring the appealing design elements of natural landscapes into your garden, using plants that will thrive in your site's conditions. He presents detailed lists of plants for each of the major eco-regions of the United States.
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Daniels, Stevie (editor).
Easy Lawns: Low-Maintenance Native Grasses for Gardeners Everywhere (ISBN: 1889538124)
Native plant experts, environmental scientists, and landscape architects contributed to this hundred-page briefing on how to use native grasses to emulate lawns. Includes instructions on preparing a site, planting, and maintaining a native grass area, whether as cropped turf, as a wilder-looking grassy area, or as a meadow with interplanted flowering forbs. Special chapters address regional plants for Florida, California, Colorado, and more. At the back are lists of individual grasses and nursery sources.
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Daniels, Stevie.
The Wild Lawn Handbook : Alternatives to the Traditional Front Lawn (ISBN: 0028620046)
Daniels traveled across the United States interviewing natural landscape pioneers, and she presents their cumulative experiences in this detailed manual of turf alternatives. The people she has interviewed used trial and error to develop stable plantings and devise effective maintenance guidelines, and descriptions include what didn't work along with what did. The book presents ideas and plant names tailored to particular areas of the country for plantings of moss, grass and wildflower mixes, and shade- and sun-loving groundcovers.
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Danz, Cassandra.
Mrs. Greenthumbs Plows Ahead: Five Steps to the Drop-Dead Gorgeous Garden of Your Dreams (ISBN: 0609802658)
For timid gardeners who worry about how to do it right, Danz offers great motivation to go out and get your hands dirty. She plunges into her garden with verve and vigor, tackling challenges as she goes, and when one technique doesn't work, she laughs and tries something else. In this, her second gardening book, Danz describes visits with famous gardeners and tours of well-known gardens, along with plenty of her own stories about projects in her garden. Very witty, fun to read, and full of handy one-page project guides like "How to Make a Rusticated Arbor".
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Ms. Danz's first book is Mrs. Greenthumbs: How I Turned a Boring Yard into a Glorious Garden and How You Can, Too (ISBN: 0517880105).
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Darke, Rick.
The American Woodland Garden: Capturing the Spirit of the Deciduous Forest (ISBN: 0881925454)
Read the LessLawn Editor's detailed review.
more info

Dennis, John V.
The Wildlife Gardener (ISBN: 0394535820)
Describes the needs and activities of many backyard wild animals, and the plant species and landscape designs that appeal to them. Excellent for those who want to attract, enjoy, and live compatibly with wildlife on their properties.
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Eck, Joe.
Elements of Garden Design (ISBN: 0805037195)
Eck's indispensable primer presents the key concepts of garden design. His concise, flowing prose clearly expresses ideas that are complex enough to interest gardeners at any level of expertise.
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Evans, Hazel.
The Patio Garden (ISBN: 0140251421)
Evans offers a valuable and inexpensive reference with concise instructions on building patios, decks, and other garden structures. The book is packed with color photographs that present real gardens with a wide variety of styles and imaginative designs.
more info

Frey, Susan and Barbara Ellis.
Outdoor Living Spaces: How to Create a Landscape You Can Use and Enjoy (ISBN: 0875961320)
Frey and Ellis examine a dozen real-life garden designs for different situations and discuss practical and imaginative aspects of the design process. Their gentle, encouraging pointers will guide you to create a garden you will use and enjoy.
more info

Hadden, Evelyn J.
Beautiful No-Mow Yards: 50 Amazing Lawn Alternatives (ISBN: 1604692383)
This is the ultimate guide to rethinking your yard. Inspiring photos present a wide variety of lawn alternatives in gardens of different styles, sizes, and regions of North America. The text gives encouragement and instruction, plus a "dictionary" of 100 choice ground-layer plants to get you started. Written by the founder of LessLawn.
Read more info from the publisher, Timber Press.
more info from Amazon

Hadden, Evelyn J.
Shrink Your Lawn: Design ideas for any landscape (ISBN: 1439217653)
Award-winning illustrated collection of inspiring strategies for replacing all or part of your lawn with landscaping that provides more services, saves labor and money, and connects you to your region and your land. Written by the founder of LessLawn.
more info from Amazon

Harrison, George H.
The Backyard Bird Watcher: The Classic Guide to Enjoying Wild Birds Outside Your Back Door (ISBN: 0671663747).
Devotes a page to each of the most common insects and spiders in North America, with brief physical description, color photo, and discussion of eating, mating, and reproductive habits.
more info

Hayward, Gordon.
Garden Paths : Inspiring Designs and Practical Projects (ISBN: 1552091015)
According to Hayward, paths structure a garden by setting up relationships between its main features. This book covers both design and building of paths, discussing how to choose the best material for a path and including a chapter each on different path materials.
more info

Hemenway, Toby.
Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture (ISBN: 1890132527)
Read the LessLawn Editor's detailed review.
more info

Henderson, Carrol.
Lakescaping for Wildlife and Water Quality (ISBN: 0964745127)
Step-by-step instructions with plenty of pictures for how to design, install, and maintain landscapes near a body of water. Emphasizes low-maintenance, naturalistic, wildlife-friendly techniques.
more info

Henderson, Carrol L.
Landscaping for Wildlife (ISBN: 9999529941)
Discusses many components of a wildlife-friendly landscape and how to implement them in yards, farms, and large wooded acreages. Provides tables of cultivation requirements for trees, shrubs, and perennials native to the Upper Midwestern USA and also rates the plants for their value to wildlife and suggests appropriate uses in the landscape.
more info

Heriteau, Jacqueline.
Glorious Gardens: Designing, Creating, Nurturing (ISBN: 1556704852)
Heriteau delivers on her promise of a book that is “filled with breathtaking garden portraits, whose primary purpose is to release your own creativity.” Basic, beautiful introduction to many garden types and topics including kitchen gardens, natural gardens, water gardens, and more. As she discusses each idea or issue, she highlights specific plants and describes what each adds to a design. Many color photos illustrate her points.
more info

Hobhouse, Penelope.
Garden Style (ISBN: 1572230878)
Discusses the variety of styles a garden can assume, sticking to general principles of form rather than specific materials. Instructive text is balanced by many color photos showing outstanding design features of British and American gardens. Contains many mini-portraits of famous and less widely known gardens of all sizes and styles.
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Horton, Alvin.
Creating Japanese Gardens (ISBN: 0897211480)
One of the Ortho Books series, this concise book discusses how to use the principles of Japanese gardens to construct a U.S. garden in the Japanese style. It's not about using the same plants and designs found in Japanese gardens, but about adapting the techniques and values to your local landscape. Horton delivers equal doses of philosophy and practice.
more info

Kingsbury, Noel.
Natural Gardening in Small Spaces (ISBN: 0881925640)
Read the LessLawn Editor's detailed review.
more info

Kingsbury, Noel.
The New Perennial Garden (ISBN: 0805046739)
Kingsbury explores the style of gardening that mingles perennials in a planting bed, paying attention to their growth habits and matching them accordingly. Includes many specific examples of effective combinations.
more info

Lovejoy, Ann.
Tea Gardens: Places to make and take tea (ISBN: 0811819051)
This handy little book gives a brief history, describes key design elements, and discusses appropriate plant choices for five types of tea garden (English, Japanese, herbal, cottage, and container). Other sections provide hints about harvesting and selected tea recipes.
more info

Malitz, Jerome and Malitz, Seth.
Reflecting Nature: Garden Designs from Wild Landscapes (ISBN: 0881924555)
Oversized book with inspiring photos and text that, together, teach you how to transpose a natural scene into a natural-looking garden area.
more info

McHoy, Peter; Segall, Barbara; and Donaldson, Stephanie.
Practical Small Gardening (ISBN: 1859673848)
This guide tackles garden design and construction by breaking them into a series of manageable projects, presenting them in numbered steps, and including photos of people actually doing the work. The authors' practical tips promise to improve the look of a garden while they decrease the maintenance it requires. The planting section explains how to use particular types of plants to influence the look and feel of a garden.
more info

Messervy, Julie Moir.
The Inward Garden: Creating a Place of Beauty and Meaning (ISBN: 0316567922)
Messervy leads us through a selection of the landscape archetypes that may appeal to different people, several systems for analyzing a gardener's style, and landscaping techniques that influence the feel of a place, all with the larger purpose of prompting readers to discover the "big idea" they are trying to express in their gardens. The "inward garden" is the reader's own imagined garden, and Messervy offers guidance in both conceiving it and building it.
more info

Newbury, Tim.
The Ultimate Garden Designer (ISBN: 070637486x)
Newbury offers complete plans for dozens of gardens that vary in style and purpose, including ideas for adapting each design to sites with different sizes and shapes. He then gives more specific suggestions for designing a handful of key garden features like steps, arbors, and ponds.
more info

Ogden, Scott and Lauren Springer.
Plant-Driven Design: Creating Gardens That Honor Plants, Place, and Spirit (ISBN: 0881928771)
Read LessLawn Editor's detailed review.
See also Lauren Springer.

Philips, Sue and Sutherland, Neil.
A Creative Step-by-step Guide to Container Gardening (ISBN: 155110153X)
Every project in this book is presented in a two-page spread, with numbered steps and a color photo of each step. The book covers how to choose suitable plants, sample plantings for various types of containers, and how to make your own hypertufa containers.
more info

Pleasant, Barbara.
Garden Stone: Creative Landscaping with Plants and Stone (ISBN: 1580175449)
This delightfully well-written, award-winning book covers the aesthetic and practical contributions of stone to a garden, with instructions and advice for designing and building stone walks, steps, and terraces.
more info

Primeau, Liz.
Front Yard Gardens: Growing More Than Grass (ISBN: 1552977102)
Read the LessLawn Editor's detailed review.
more info

Reich, Lee.
Weedless Gardening (ISBN: 0761116966)
Explains how to build your soil from the top down, without digging, to keep down weeds with less work and greater benefit to the plants than traditional digging techniques.
more info

Saunders, Cris.
"Let It Alone," Permaculture Magazine No. 28 (Summer 2001), page 39.
Saunders describes the circumstances in which to prune trees and how to plant them so that regular pruning is unnecessary.

Springer, Lauren.
The Undaunted Garden: Planting for Weather-Resilient Beauty (ISBN: 1555911153)
In her northern Colorado garden, Springer grows hundreds of hardy plants that have adapted well to her property's various microclimates. This book presents her descriptions and color photographs of individual plants (and of her designed plant communities) that withstand hail, drought, or other weather extremes characteristic of the North American central plains.
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Springer married Scott Ogden, and together they wrote Plant-Driven Design: Creating Gardens That Honor Plants, Place, and Spirit (ISBN: 0881928771), which raised the bar for books about dryscaping, xeriscaping, and sustainable landscaping in general. The clearly presented examination of key issues related to water use, native plants, and other sustainable landscaping strategies make this a crucial read even if you don't live in the desert.
Read LessLawn Editor's detailed review.
more info

Stein, Sara.
Planting Noah's Garden: Further Adventures in Backyard Ecology (ISBN: 0395709601)
By popular demand, Stein wrote this sequel to Noah's Garden. It lays out steps for injecting "wildness" into your yard, whether you live in the city, suburbs, town, or country. Stein explains how to accomplish major projects--find and start a group of wild gardeners, order plants wholesale, plant large quantities quickly and effectively, and create different types of natural communities (woodland, wetland, grassland)--but doesn't neglect the details like moving heavy rocks, sowing wild seeds, do-it-yourself soil analysis, and more. A thorough and instructive guide that contains many motivational stories and color photos.
more info

Stevens, David.
Small Gardens and Backyards (ISBN: 1850290652)
Stevens uses over a hundred color photos to illustrate the features of well-designed small gardens. In their captions he explains why each element or arrangement works. When he presents general principles of gardening, he does so in the context of these specific examples.
more info

Strong, Roy.
Successful Small Gardens (ISBN: 0847821978)
This book presents twenty successful small gardens, showing color photos and a detailed landscape plan for each, arranged according to the time needed to maintain them (roughly an hour a week to a day a week). Strong outlines why each design is successful and suggests ways to adjust it to suit different personal tastes.
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Tallamy, Douglas W.
Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants (ISBN: 0881929921)
This book spurred a national discussion in the U.S. about traditional horticultural and landscaping practices. Entomology professor Tallamy presents a series of shocking statistics and research results about animal extinctions and animal-plant interactions. He ties them together into a flashing neon arrow that points to humble gardeners (and their urban and suburban landscapes) as the saviors of our planet.
Read the LessLawn Editor's detailed review.
more info

Tanner, Ogden.
Living Fences: A Gardener’s Guide to Hedges, Vines & Espaliers (ISBN: 1881527689)
Good detailed overview of ways to use plants as barriers—for privacy, beauty, or to delineate spaces. Covers hedges (shorn and unshorn), vines, and espaliers. Describes plant species for each type of barrier, over 100 total species.
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Thompson, Peter.
The Self-Sustaining Garden: The Guide to Matrix Planting (ISBN: 0881928372)
Explores techniques for planting gardens that will endure with minimal or no care once established. Discusses “matrix” planting (knitting together more decorative specimens with abundant numbers of a background or matrix plant) and choosing plants appropriate to the conditions of the landscape.
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Verey, Rosemary.
The Art of Planting (ISBN: 0316899763)
Verey’s book is replete with instructional stories that draw on her vast experience to examine the art of combining plants for all-season beauty and compatible growth habits. Detailed discussion and color photos illuminate the visual qualities of plants—shape, density, texture, color, and so forth.
more info

White, Hazel.
Paths and Walkways : Simple Projects, Contemporary Designs (ISBN: 0811814297)
Ms. White presents a wide variety of path projects using many different combinations of materials, with color photographs to illustrate each idea. Every project description includes a detailed list of ingredients (including how much of each material is needed), maintenance instructions, and tools required, and each project's cost and difficulty are rated.
more info

Whitefield, Patrick.
How to Make a Forest Garden (ISBN: 1856230082)
Forest gardens align with the principles of permaculture, providing "a way of growing food which is harmonious with the Earth, healthful for people, and compassionate to all living things." Whitefield explains how to design, establish, and maintain a forest garden. Though plant-related information is specific to Britain, much of the theory, instructions, and guidelines can be adapted for use in other regions of the world.
more info

Williams, Bunny with Nancy Drew.
On Garden Style (ISBN: 0684826054)
Award-winning interior designer Williams explores many aspects of designing an artistic and tasteful landscape. The book doesn’t focus on particular plants, but rather on different sensory and structural contributions that plants and other elements (from containers to passageways) can make to a design.
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Williams, Robin.
Garden Design: How to Be Your Own Landscape Architect (ISBN: 0895776766)
This practical sourcebook presents stylistic options for different elements of garden design, such as steps, fences and walls, and water features. Includes structural answers to many design challenges such as addressing poor drainage, choosing focal points, and integrating entertainment and game-playing areas into the garden. Provides a broad, basic introduction to garden design possibilities.
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Wilson, Jim.
Landscaping with Wildflowers: An Environmental Approach to Gardening (ISBN: 039566926x)
Explains how and why to build an environmentally sound garden. Includes lists of native plants for various situations and beautiful color photos of both individual species and landscapes.
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