Envisioning the Garden, Line, Distance, Form, Color, and Meaning Reviewed By Allan Becker of Bookpleasures.com
Reviewer Allan Becker: Allan has been designing and planting flower gardens, since he was a teenager in the 1960's. Now retired from the soft goods industry, where he held several positions in design, product development, and marketing, he has turned his passion for gardening into a second career, as a garden designer for private clients in Montreal, Canada.
In spring and summer, he provides his assistants, most college students, who transform his designs into flower gardens. In winter, he reviews books on garden-related topics for Bookpleasures.com and writes a Gardening Blog.
Allan earned a B.A. from McGill University, followed by two years of studies in design at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia). He lives in the Montreal suburb of Cote St. Luc, Quebec with his wife and travels regularly to Toronto and Boston to visit his children and grandchildren.
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Author: Robert Mallet
Publisher: W. W.
Norton & Co.
This is no ordinary book on landscape and garden design. The author’s sublime, poetic writing takes this publication out of the mainstream and raises it into a class by itself. What also makes the work exceptional is that Mr. Mallet has successfully integrated several disciplines of study to create one inspiring work.
In a friendly style, reminiscent of the passionate English garden writers of the first half of the twentieth century, the author introduces the reader to the primal significance of good landscape design, with references to the physics of optics, the anatomy of the eye and brain, the psychology of perception, and the fundamentals of pure design.
Mr. Mallet’s multi-discipline approach is reflected in the book’s original French title; - Optics of the Garden; Enlarging Space and Liberating the Spirit.
The author elaborates the details of his thesis in seven chapters in which he discusses lines and punctuation, scale, distance, forms, textures and lighting, colors, other senses that have an impact on a garden, and the search for meaning in landscape design. The book concludes with a short, inspiring summary of the author’s philosophy on the subject of gardens.
To illustrate the breadth of the author’s intellectual horizons, consider an excerpt from a chapter on scale. When discussing miniature gardens in a paragraph titled “Elasticity of mental markers; bonsai gardens”, the author reports: - This representation on a smaller scale of a much larger natural world is intended to liberate us from our everyday environment and to allow us to escape into an idealized world. It can even serve as real therapy for people who are trapped inside their own mental universe.
On each of the 143 pages, Mr. Mallet shares fine details of landscaping concepts that are sometimes overlooked by other writers. For example, he elaborates on the art of lopsidedness, illusion and staged effects, false perspectives, shadows, placing jagged forms in front of ovals and rounds, nuance rather than contrast, placing cold colors in front of warm colors, proprioception - a sixth sense that improves how we see by using sound and smell - and the emotional dimension of a garden.
Few books on the subject of landscaping touch the soul of the reader with the depth of meaning that Mr. Mallet has successfully imbued in his writing. While many of the examples, diagrams and illustrations are drawn from large estates, the fundamentals are universal and applicable to gardens of all sizes.
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