Cover photo by Rachel Warne
Almost two years ago we moved to a house with a fairly large (by today's standards) garden, having previously owned a small paved and gravelled yard that had played host to a few sad pots. In my new garden I had visions of social media worthy shots of my little garden table adorned with pretty sparkling drinks and notebooks, with a backdrop of blooms in every size, shape and colour. So far we've removed one broken greenhouse, three trees, fixed one fence and have managed the lawn (mostly). It is fair to say, it isn't going quite as well as I had hoped.
Photo by Jim Powell
When I saw “My Garden is a Car Park and other Design Dilemmas” by Kendra Wilson, which according to the publisher is an inspirational guide for the reluctant gardener, I wondered if it would be the answer to my problems with motivation and offer me some much needed guidance. The simple answer is, ‘yes’, it has helped a great deal.
Photo by Ngoc Minh Ngo
Firstly, it's a neat and approachable little book, rather than a cumbersome hardback, it has a flexible cover and is only a little bigger than A5 in size. It’s also an easy and manageable read; there are no chapters, each double page spread poses a garden related question or problem and a corresponding answer. There is a list of all the questions in the contents page so you don't need to go browsing through the whole book to find the bit that is useful to you. For example your problem might be “my garden is overlooked on several sides”, or you might ask, “how do cutting gardens work?” This is then replied to “in brief” - a simple line or two which summarises the angle the response will take (e.g. “Along the same lines as a vegetable patch), which is then followed by a more detailed answer. The answers themselves are no more than a few paragraphs, so aren't overly complicated, they mostly give you a starting point for a solution, make a few suggestions of plants that you could try, or sometimes they simply describe how others have tackled a similar problem in their own gardens. Each spread also includes a couple of quarter page colour photos illustrating some of the ideas being described.
Photo by Kendra Wilson
Interspersed throughout the book there are also some feature spreads on various subjects such as “interesting hedges” and “ways with roses” which illustrates further ideas (not necessarily attached to a specific problem) with a selection of images.
Photo by Marcus Harpur
I have found this book very inspiring. Now I need to be clear, I am a novice gardener (I imagine it wouldn’t offer half as much to the seasoned gardener), I'm pretty clueless, I know when to deadhead a hydrangea but that is about as far as my gardening knowledge goes; I find the breadth of the whole subject intimidating – but I think that is where this book is really useful, problems are broken down in such a way that you are able to start thinking about your own garden as one task at a time. I found myself picking out spreads that were relevant to my garden, I started having ideas about how I might change the layout and the kinds of plants I might look into buying - it has definitely motivated me.
Photo by Rachel Warne
And while I'm sure this book doesn't cover an exhaustive list of problems, offer an extensive list of plants, or teach you how to look after them, it is going to help you see the bigger picture, define problem areas and nudge you in the right direction, so you can do further research and planning, gently building your confidence. I am going to use this book to help turn me into the gardener I long to be… I think I might start with one of my biggest problems, “I don't like gardening in the cold”!
My Garden is a Car Park and other Gardening Dilemmas by Kendra Wilson
Published by Laurence King
All images copyright of Laurence King