by Sarah Naybour
10th May 2016

There is something particularly appealing about a well-designed garden. Even non-gardeners (are there really people who don’t like gardening?) can appreciate the beauty of a garden designed by the greats, such as the rolling English landscapes of Capability Brown. By the way, his real name was Lancelot Brown, but he was nicknamed “Capability” because of his frequent statements that a country estate had ‘great capability for improvement.’ Another great landscape designer was Andre Le Notre with his European Baroque garden designs, his most famous being the Gardens of Versailles, designed and built for King Louis XIV.

It is extremely satisfying to design gardens for my clients, as well as myself. Garden design is a very creative process, so having patience while it takes shape is a necessary quality! And sometimes, a little bit of inspiration is required. That is when I turn to my favourite garden design books, which I’d like to share with you here. I’ve included the links to Amazon (other good book retailers are available!) so that you can see them for yourselves.

  1. The Modern Japanese Garden by Michiko Rico Nosé

I love Japanese gardens for their pared back style. Like abstract art, they can be difficult to comprehend initially, but their simplicity is serene and captivating. This book explores traditional Japanese gardens and translates them into modern, contemporary designs, ideal for the urban garden. I’m fascinated by garden spaces which do not necessarily rely on plants, but on architectural elements, texture, balance, proportion. All of this can be found within the pages of this beautifully illustrated book.

  1. Mirrors of Paradise – The Gardens of Fernando Caruncho by Guy Cooper & Gordon Taylor

The authors of this book have themselves designed many gardens in Ireland, France, Spain, the US and, of course, within the UK. So they knew their stuff when they interviewed Fernando Caruncho for this book, written as an interview and fascinating to read. You’ll see how Caruncho’s gardens ooze simplicity and stick rigidly to an underlying grid, and learn how every element has a purpose, and about his strategies behind them. His use of huge expanses and minute detail are breathtaking. Being Spanish, you can see the roots of Granada and ancient gardens in all that he does, as well as his acute awareness of how light and shadow work to enhance design. Mas de Les Voltes, which he designed in 1995-97, is one of my favourites.


  1. Garden Design – A Book of Ideas by Heidi Howcroft and Marianne Majerus

Marianne Majerus is an award-winning photographer used by many of the UK’s leading designers, so this book is full of beautiful gardens that you would not normally get to see. With over 600 stunning images, it’s a great book to show my clients. Many of the gardens are British and the variety of styles gives me a good opportunity to find out what my clients like. It really does cover all the components of garden design and makes for a fantastic picture resource. It possibly has too much choice in it to be of any use as an actual design book, but nonetheless it is worth buying for the stunning photographs alone.

  1. Encyclopedia of Grasses for Livable Landscapes by Rick Darke

Recommended to me by Chris Marchant of Orchard Dene Nurseries, this is a fantastic resource for designing with grasses – not only because it has a huge section on design, but also because its A-Z of grasses is extensive and hugely informative. Grasses can give some wonderful different visual effects in the garden, but knowing what to do with which type is important, and this book is great for beginners as well as more knowledgeable gardeners. Not all of the grasses are readily available in the UK, but those that are will be found at Knoll Gardens, based in Dorset. If you are a grass lover, do look out for my up-coming blog on ornamental grasses.

  1. Around the World in 80 Gardens by Monty Don

This may be an odd choice, but I found it inspiring. Mainly because it showcases so many different gardens that it questions what a garden is, and I guess the answer is: anything you want it to be! But if you wanted to buy this book for the photographs, don’t. According to a few reviews, the photography is not anywhere near as good as the writing, which is a shame, especially after the fascinating television programme of the same name. But the writing, according to one review (Western Morning News), is, “…thoughtful, sensitive, inspirational and provides food for the imagination.”

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