Authors: Arne Maynard with Anne De Verteuil

Publisher: HarperCollins

ISBN-10: 0-06-059631-7:  ISBN-13: 978-0-06-059631-6

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 Gardeners are happy to read  books on their favorite topic because there is always something new to discover. So it was with much anticipation that I sat down to read Garden Design Details. What an eye opening experience! In the hands of this author and his collaborator, a garden can be transformed into a modern sculpture. Organic and full of texture that it may be, it is, in the end, a work of art.

 In this beautifully crafted book, the author treats terrain as an artist's canvas, using vegetation as the artist's medium with hedge clippers and lawn mowers as artist's tools.

As one turns the pages and studies the unusual photographs, one will come across a picture of Boxwood shrubs, sprinkled over a lawn and round- clipped to resemble a collection of giant green beach balls. Another photograph illustrates how a lawn mower has cut a path along a planting of taller grass to delineate a whimsical border.  

Elsewhere in the book, a gently sloped lawn is transformed into a miniature Roman amphitheatre by inserting stone terraces along the grade. If one thought that the role of a landscape architect was to integrate a structure into the land, or solely to create an  idyllic environment, think again. This author works outside of the proverbial box.

 It came as a great surprise to this reviewer that most of these clean line gardens are located in European countries that are known usually for their traditional romantic gardens. And yet, these are the countries that are at the forefront of this new wave of garden design that treats the landscape as artwork.

 To instruct the reader in the composition of the garden as contemporary art, the author distills the essential elements universal to all garden design as verticals, horizontals and punctuation. The major portion of the book is then dedicated to illustrating how these elements work in nature.  Vertical elements include hedges, walls and trees as well as upright boundary markers. Horizontal elements include lawns, paths, wild flowers, water, and low hills shaped into unusual geometric shapes called land sculptures. These sculptures are an innovative element as they bring a fresh treatment to the world of gardening. The punctuation is the strategic placement of garden- related objects such as fountains, lawn furniture and gazebos. They serve as focal and resting points in the garden and determine how an area will be used.

  As a traditional gardener, who creates flower beds for other peoples' pleasure, I was, at first, disappointed at the deliberate exclusion of flowers and flowering shrubs from the books.  However, by revisiting the book several times, I was won over. I came to understand that the author's goal is not to reinforce traditionally held beliefs. Rather, his objective is to open our minds to new and innovative interpretations of the contemporary garden and to consider the landscape designer as an artist working in the medium of living plants.

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