I'm more of a library-goer than a book-buyer and it's a rare gardening book that I'd buy, but 30 bucks for this hunk of inspiration and design how-to seems like a bargain to me. That's because Julie Moir Messervy is a top residential designer with 30 years experience and seems to have gotten it right – and by "right" I mean transforming people's empty yards into what she calls "pleasure grounds".
See, even more exciting to me than getting folks to lay off the Miracle-Gro is helping them enjoy being outdoors, inspiring them to stroll their garden every day and connect with nature. Julie's all about that, and makes this too-true observation:
"There's little that's pleasurable about the typical American yard….Why do we spend the bulk of our resources on the inside of our house, while settling for so little on the outside?"
She touts old-fashioned pleasures like backyard swings and chaise longues and benches (which she insists have comfortable backs, unlike those utterly backless ones that HGTV designers regularly install). Oh, and market umbrellas (which I'm forever recommending as a low-cost shade solution – from this source.)
Julie even suggests finding a nice spot – like inside an arbor – for a "tryst". That's because with pleasure grounds, you never know.
Then there's Julie's personal style, which is all about the plants, and pleasing the eye. "No matter what kind of garden I'm designing, my perpetual quest is to find the beautiful line." So the book is filled with stunning photos of gardens we can actually emulate. As a design tutorial it's opened my eyes to possibilities way beyond my standard "mixed borders surrounding open space" mentality that's served me well but gee, there are so many other good choices. Like creating a few "comfort zones" with paths connecting them. The photos in the "Making the Most of your Front Yard" section are positively revelatory.
It's this kind of wise instruction+visual feast that's missing on gardening websites, including my own, which may be why gardening books can still compete with the Internet.
Thanks to the American Horticultural Society for turning me on to Julie's style and this awesome book by featuring them in a free-to-members webinar. Home Outside was published by The Taunton Press in 2009. Lower photo by Randy O'Rourke.