10 Garden Books That Changed My Life

As a teacher and Principal of the Oxford College of Garden Design I am always wary of encouraging students to  buy books rather than borrow them from a library, as fewer than 50% ever get read once purchased. But there are a few must-have books that no self respecting designer should be without, either as a source of inspiration or a vital source of knowledge. 

The following list, are the books that have most influenced my life as a garden designer. I hope they may prove of interest and may tempt some of you to read those that are unknown to you.

Gardens are for People
Thomas Church was the father of Contemporary design. This text contains the essence of Church's design philosophy, a519DT0W5X7L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU02_s well as practical advice. It is illustrated by site plans and photographs of some of the 2000 gardens that Church designed during his career. Called "the last great traditional designer and the first great modern designer", Church was one of the central figures in the development of the modern Californian garden. For the first time, West Coast designers based their work not on imitation of East Coast traditions, but on climatic, landscape and lifestyle characteristics unique to California and the West. Church viewed the garden as a logical extension of the house, with one extending naturally into the other.


Garden Design
If Church was the father of garden design, Sylvia Crowe was the mother and if you have ever read any of John Brookes’s books, read this; and you will understand where he got his design philosophy from.  Now unfortunately out of print, I hope one day someone will have the intelligence to realise the significance of this book and reprint it in its entirety. Beg borrow or steel a copy, but this is  a MUST READ BOOK

 Room Outside
The Book that kick started the garden design revolution back in 1970.This is a thoroughly revised and beautifully illus61pi093w2oL._SL500_AA300_trated edition of the book that first made garden design accessible to everyone. In "Room Outside" John Brookes invented the highly practical concept of the garden, however large or small, as a usable extension of the home. That was nearly forty years ago and, while the range of products and materials has increased dramatically, the role the garden can play has not changed at all. Indeed, as a retreat from the hectic world of work and as an overflow to family life, our outdoor space has become incredibly important and "Room Outside" is even more relevant to 21st century living. 

A Place in the country
John Brookes’s A Place in the Country another book sadly out of print, takes us away from 0500013276small urban spaces and describes in detail how to organise, sort and design large rural spaces.  However it goes much further than any of his subsequent books, almost into the realm of landscape architecture for the residential site.  This book is packed with information otherwise difficult to find else- ware.  How to encourage game, woodlands and shelter belts, grazing your land, outbuilding, glass houses and conservatories and so the list goes on.  If you can find a second hand copy of this book buy it! Its a gold mine of information and one I never tire of dipping in and out of.

Bold Romantic Gardens
Another life enhancing book, which I was first introduced to, while still working for John Bookes as his design assistant back in the late 80’ early 90’s
Sadly out of print and very much a collectors item now, it was a ‘show piece’ of two American landscape Architects, Wolfgang Oehme and James Van Sweden who pioneered the use of native plants and the use of grasses for the the first time. 


Residential Landscape Architecture is an introductory text that covers the process and techniques for designing the single family residential site. It is intended for individuals who will be or are currently designing residential landscapes as a professional career. The book features a thorough, how-to explanation of each of the steps of the design process from initial contact with the client to a completed master plan.



Landscape Graphics The new revised edition of the classic industry reference! "Landscape Graphics" is the architect's ultimate guide to all the basic graphics techniques used in landscape design and landscape architecture. Progressing from the basics into more sophisticated techniques, this guide offers clear instruction on graphic language and the design process, the basics of drafting, lettering, freehand drawing and conceptual diagramming, perspective drawing, section elevations and more.

518gkist03L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU02_ From Concept to Form in Landscape Design, Second Edition presents the landscape transformation process in a highly visual manner, creating both a vivid learning experience for students and a useful toolbox for working designers. Replete with compelling, valuable, and accessible insights for designing outdoor spaces, Reid′s book is an ideal blend of inspiration and application.

Planting Design
Frankly any of Ouldof’s books could be here, but this is one of my favourites.  Home gardeners with a keen interest in design, as well as professional landscape designers, will find 51BEGW1K0AL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU02_invaluable advice in this new approach. The book focuses on the general principles behind creating successful and beautiful plant combinations in both time and space working with perennials in the context of trees, shrubs, and the surrounding landscape. The authors suggest looking across, into, and through the landscape. They ask the reader to consider the rhythms and connections in their designs, through such elements as echoes, linkages, and repetitions.

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An education of a Gardener
An now for something completely different!

First published in 1962, when Page was already a well established European designer. Reading this book is one of those rare occasions when a marvellous professional such as Page, generously lets you in to share his life. Page's accounts merge the personal with the professional, and encompass a wide spectrum indeed. It is, therefore, a book to read by the small bedroom lamp, as well as in the study room, while working. It has by now become a legendary novel, a rare breed that set a precedent, although rarely followed. It is analogous to a good old-fashioned radio show - romantic, endearing and memorable.

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