I'm not prone to hyperbole, and I've never before on this blog recommended buying a book, though I have recommended reading them, but this book is exceptional: The Garden Visitor's Companion, by Louisa Jones belongs on any gardener's shelf. Stunning photos are scattered throughout to illustrate the various points.
For those of us who just love plants and gardens, this book is an excellent resource for understanding the language of gardens, enabling us to get more out of a garden visit than, "My, don't the Dahlias look lovely."
The book is broken down into three main sections. The first is headed "Ten Questions for Ten Styles," and provides valuable insights into different styles of gardens. It will enrich the garden visiting experience of just about anyone. Even if you are a garden designer or have studied garden design, this book lists specific, helpful questions to ask of a garden's owner or designer when visiting. No need to worry about remembering what to ask, just flip open the book and pull out a relevant, pertinent question.
The second section, titled "Experts Choose their Favourite Gardens round the Globe," makes for good vacation planning. Experts such as John Brooks, Helen Dillon, and Penelope Hobhouse have selected several gardens and explained why each is worth visiting.
The final section, "Advice from the Wise," discusses what visitors should bring, with whom they should see the garden, and the best times to visit, as well as a side-splitting section on courtesy and a list of what not to say, including actual comments. (I find this part particularly useful.) Jones also offers advice for those opening their garden to the public for the first time.
But beyond the stated purposes of the book, valuable lessons may be gleaned by those of us who are struggling with design issues in their own garden. The 10 questions for garden visits can be applied to one's own garden, generating meaningful examination of the design (or lack thereof), allowing the gardener to see his or her own garden with the eyes of a visitor, thereby hopefully providing a catalyst for thoughtful improvement.
I checked this book out of my local library, but I intend to purchase a copy. I have received no compensation of any sort for this unsolicited review.