I'm not even waiting until this one is available for sale before I tell you about it – I'm that excited! But let me start at the beginning…
I met the author, Ryan McEnaney several years ago over a glass of wine – sauvignon blanc to be specific. We were at a conference for garden writers and started chatting over our mutual excitement about all things garden-related. We've been good friends and colleagues ever since (cemented by the fact that he secretly paid for my wine!) Little did I know that a few years later he would write this book.
As I read the introduction and first few chapters I laughed out loud as he was recommending cocktails to accompany the assignments – and I could truly hear his voice as I read each page. He's a fun loving guy and that really comes through. So, the first thing I want you to know is that this isn't a heavy-duty design book full of trade-speak. It's written by a young, fun, and totally great guy who is sharing his insights and solid 'how to' info.
What makes this book different?
My bookshelves are groaning under the weight of design books written by some of the worlds best designers – but I'm going to make room for this one. Let me explain why.
As a designer I spend a lot of time interviewing my clients on the phone and then in person to help them think through what their priorities are, how they need their garden to function, what they are drawn to, what they dislike. It takes time and some detective work but is one of the most important parts of the design process. Few clients are able to describe succinctly the style they are drawn to or the "feel" they want to elicit when sitting in their garden simply because they've never had to analyze it before. I use a mix of leading questions, visuals (I have all my clients create a Houzz ideabook and then explain to me what they do or don't like about the images they have selected), I look at the homes architecture, I look at the interior decorating style and color scheme and may ask to see a room that the homeowners truly reflects 'them'. All of this to then design a beautiful outdoor room that will be an extension of their home and work for their lifestyle.
But what would happen if they didn't call a designer? That's where this book comes in – and is worth its weight in gold because it helps you, the homeowner, self-interview and get a better understanding of how to blend your style and your life outdoors. And since Ryan would never call himself a "designer" (although trust me, he has the creative and artistic qualities to be a design rock star), he speaks the same language as YOU. He's got an easy-going style that makes you feel as though he's sitting right there beside you.
This book helps the homeowner understand not just their needs but also their tastes while realistically circling back to discuss the less than sexy things like maintenance, long-term goals, and budget. He does all this with humor – yet his fun assignments and rhetoric are spot on and essential to a successful outcome. Don't skip these chapters!
Recognizing that we all have different tastes, Ryan writes his design chapter using three distinct personalities as his imaginary clients: Martha (the classic – yet never boring), Tommy (the minimalist who is all about structure) and Kelly (the plant-driven designer and naturalist). Frankly it's brilliant.
He then covers all the basics of design from color and texture to seasonality and more, using sketches to illustrate how each of these clients might interpret his ideas in a design that evolves over time (as most DIY projects do). This is another standout difference from my other design books – the case studies and illustrations can help you visualize results and fine-tune your plans.
The final fun piece are the recipe cards where he suggests plant combinations and specifies climate zones and conditions these combinations will work for.
Who will enjoy the book?
Well anyone who knows Ryan….but certainly young gardeners who aren't even sure that they should call themselves a gardener yet as they are still learning. Anyone faced with a blank slate or needing to renovate an existing garden that plans on doing much of the work- or at least the plant selection themselves. Frankly, anyone I haven't got time to assist – because Ryan takes all that I do – and makes it available to YOU.
Where can I buy the book?
It is available now for pre-order online (great Xmas present idea!) and come early December will be available at all your favorite bookstores.
Enter to Win a Signed Copy:
the drawing is now closed and the winner notified
Ryan is going to mail a signed copy to one lucky reader! Just leave a comment below telling me which part of designing a garden you find the most challenging. Is it choosing the right plants? Visualizing how it might look in 10 years? Understanding scale – how big to make your patio for example? Or something else entirely?
- Only comments left on this blog post will be entered into the drawing – not on any images within the blog post or on social media.
- Only one entry per person please.
- Only residents of the USA will be entered to win the book (due to shipping costs) but of course comments are welcome from all.
- Drawing will be by random number generator at 10am PST on Tuesday November 8th
- Winner will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to respond with their mailing address after which time another name will be drawn.
Lead photo credit: Tracy Walsh
Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links.
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