If you want to know who's who in the world of contemporary British garden design, this is definitely the book for you. Some designers will likely be familiar to you -- Tom Stuart Smith, Dan Pearson, Arabella Lennox-Boyd, Andy Sturgeon, just to mention a few -- but there are scores of others you'll meet for the first time. In Great Garden Design: Contemporary Inspiration for Outdoor Spaces (Frances Lincoln Ltd), author Ian Hodgson profiles some 300 of the best garden designs from the last decade from over 50 top designers.
The book is comprised of five main chapters, with beautiful photos throughout. Bold Visions, Great Designs focuses on garden styles, such as Urban Chic, Naturalistic, Water gardens, Contemporary, etc. The main design principles for each style are simply explained, and there are photos of projects by different designers to illustrate each point. The Garden Gallery concentrates on design elements such as entrances, routes, illumination, and various planting styles. Outdoor Experiences profiles gardens designed for relaxation, dining, playing, bathing.
And in keeping with current design trends, there's a chapter called Gardens with a Conscience that's a great guide to sustainable solutions: lowering the carbon footprint; recycling and repurposing; solar power, green roofs, rain gardens; creating habitats for wildlife.
The final chapter is for homeowners and it explains how to assess one's landscape and soil quality, and most important of all, how to commission a designer. An additional plus is a directory of designers (with web addresses) -- all members of Britain's Society of Garden Designers.
This book is filled with simply fabulous ideas on all aspects of garden design, and it's likely to become a well-thumbed reference in years to come.
If you're more into classic British garden style, then you'll certainly want to consider First Ladies of Gardening: Designers, Dreamers and Divas (Frances Lincoln Ltd) by landscape architect Heidi Howcroft. According to Howcroft, a number of visionary women, including Vita Sackville-West, Beth Chatto, Rosemary Verey, defined the English garden. A number of women are carrying on that same tradition, with a somewhat modern twist.
Howcroft profiles 14 gardens and the women who brought them to life. There a history of each garden, along with lovely photos, and a great addition is guiding principles for each and signature plants.
Next time you're in London, check the schedule of the National Gardens Scheme and see if you can catch Sue Whittington's country garden -- Southwood Lodge -- in in Highgate (North London). You will not be disappointed.