Gardentotopia: Design Basics for Creating Beautiful Outdoor Spaces,  Jan Johnsen 2019

The subtitle tells it all—a plethora of design suggestions accompanied by beautiful photographs and specific ideas about organizing outdoor space, hardscape and other structural elements, and specific plants and their placement.  Johnsen is a professional landscape designer and a principal of the established design/build firm, Johnsen Landscapes & Pools, in Westchester County, NY and is also an award-winning instructor at the New York Botanical Garden and a contributing editor for Garden Design Magazine. The book is organized into 5 sections: 1) Garden Design and Artful Accents 2)Walls, Patios, Walks, and Steps 3)Theme Gardens 4)Color in the Garden and 5) Plants and Planting.  Unless you’re a landscape designer by profession or have a blank slate of property for a new start, the first few sections are probably not that relevant but it’s fun to look at the lovely photos.  The sections on color and specific plants, however, are great especially since she started the latter with my favorite plant, the bottlebrush buckeye.  We have a group of four of them planted along our brook in Vermont that have just begun to spread and fill out after 3 years and promise to provide years of enjoyment as she writes: “This remarkable understory plant…when it blooms in early summer, there is nothing to match.  Place it at the woodland edge and you will enjoy the ‘show stopper’ summer show every year.” This book is a fine addition to any gardener’s library or a worthwhile borrow from the library.

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