Book Recommendation: Paul Bangay’s Country Gardens

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I love a good gardening book, and when a new book arrives in the mail the first thing I do is sit down and flip through all the pages for initial absorption of the photos. When I first opened Paul Bangay’s Country Gardens to look at the photos, I had to stop a third through because I was exhausted. Every single image had elements I wanted to study, even at first pass. It took me three attempts to make it through the book for my first glance, each time sending my mind into a haze of inspiration and ideas. My copy now rests next to my desk for anytime I need to get my head back into that inspired haze.

A peek in Country Gardens by Paul Bangay, more at


The book is divided into 20 individual country gardens. However, I feel the classification of “country gardens” is misleading. Yes, these gardens are mostly fair outside any metropolis, however their structure and elements of Paul’s designs can be applied to any location and any size garden.


Here are a small sampling of the gardens in the book, even though they don’t do the book justice. A peek in Country Gardens by Paul Bangay, more at

A peek in Country Gardens by Paul Bangay, more at


If you are looking to add any other books to your library, I also recommend Stonefields which follows Paul’s personal garden masterpiece from inception, creation, maintenance and continuing evolution. The last photo above is from Stonefields to give you an idea what to expect from the whole book.

A Thoughtful Gardener: An Intelligent Approach to Garden Design by Jinny Blom

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A Thoughtful Gardener: An Intelligent Approach to Garden Design by Jinny Blom, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

I have long been an admirer of Jinny Blom’s garden designs for the juxtaposition of feeling like they have always existed while being fresh and reflecting the current excitement in garden design. When she hinted at writing a book via Instagram early last year (@Jinny.Blom), I made a mental note to pre-order on Amazon. I am honored she accepted my request to review the book on Thinking Outside the Boxwood, and as a result got to read the book cover to cover before everyone else!


The short of the review is, YES you should buy this book. But here is why –


Gardening books typically fall into one of three categories; coffee Table/portfolio, DIY and Textbook/Plant geek. Generally a DIY book is not useful to the professional and a textbook/plant geek book can overwhelm a pleasure gardener or novice. The Thoughtful Garden falls into none of these categories.


Even though the book is filled with beautiful images worth studying and appreciating, this is not a coffee table book for thumbing through passively. The images are supporting figures for illustrating a thoughtful breakdown of her process for creating gardens that draw out the natural beauty with consideration to place, time and structure. Jinny pulls back the curtain to share her process with an honest dialogue, like her limited use of grasses or her love of Hybrid Tea roses.


A Thoughtful Gardener: An Intelligent Approach to Garden Design by Jinny Blom, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


Jinny’s approach for creating a garden strongly highlights that gardens are more than just a collection of plants, with the first discussion on plant selection mentioned in chapter five. There is no chapter list to give the reader a cheat sheet to jump to a specific section, you need to read from beginning to end, for a gradual flow of the process woven between projects with time to pause between each topic to reflect before proceeding.


A Thoughtful Gardener: An Intelligent Approach to Garden Design by Jinny Blom, Thinking Outside the Boxwood


The process is littered with sage advice and practical tips that you could easily highlight and return to again and again. Some examples include:

  • Gardens used every day should be close to the house.
  • Posh path ways can meander, but practical routes should be direct.
  • Structure is the necessary corset of the garden
  • ‘First we must destroy’ – with the junk removed it is possible to really see the value in what is left.
  • The details make all the difference to the serenity and quality of the end project
  • Large gardens need division in order to give them intimacy


A Thoughtful Gardener: An Intelligent Approach to Garden Design by Jinny Blom, Thinking Outside the Boxwood

This quote towards the end of the book is the best recap of Jinny’s philosophy and what you will learn from The Thoughtful Gardener –

“My fundamental feeling is that it is the structure of the garden – its walls, surfaces, routes, views, water, structural planting such as trees and shrubbery, topiary and hedges – that ultimately counts.”


The book release date is next week on March 16,  so pre-order your copy from  Amazon and follow Jinny on Instagram. Once you get a copy of the book, please let me know what you think and how our thoughts compare. I will also report if there are any USA book tour dates announced for this year.


A Gardeners Gift Guide

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The past few years I have created a gift guide based on items I would recommend to someone passionate about gardens and gardening. I pull from the list of items I have purchased over the year that either provided me with inspiration or helped me be a better gardener. Below is a list of some great items I found this year, with some more practical  gifts and others more luxurious.

Thinking Outside the Boxwood, 2016 Holiday Gift Guide


(1) Luciano Giubbilei: The Art of Making Gardens ($43.86) I have been a long admire of Luciano’s work and have the first book written about his work next to my computer at work (The Gardens of Luciano Giubbilei) for quick inspiration. This second book is written by Luciano himself and reflects his evolution as a designer while working on an experimental boarder at Great Dexter. You still see is modern clean sensibility with more exploration with color in textural compositions. Outside of learning about his creative process, it is a great garden porn book with beautiful images.

(2) Broad Fork ($84.80) – This summer I spent hours working on getting organic matter into our soil at our house. For a lot of the work I used a tiller, but ordered this broad fork to use in smaller areas where I needed deeper cultivation. The tool has since migrated to the crews to use, but will need to get it back for more fall planting. This is a workout to use, but outside of a large tiller is the best tool for aerating compact soil in your garden beds.

(3) Eddie Bauer Multiclava ($20) – I have a few of these that I wear whenever I am working outside to protect my neck from the sun. It works better than sun screen which typically gets sweated off or major areas missed. The fabric is designed to wick moisture and does not you a hot neck. It also helps in the winter to help shield you from the wind.  I have the bandana pattern and camouflage patterns, but there are lots of options to choose from and lots of different ways you can wear.

(4) Leonard GardenGlide ($34.99) – I received one as a sample from A.M. Leonard to try out and passed it along to the maintenance crew to use. In less than week, they came back requesting we order more for all the crews. It is a simple design, but the glide allows you to move with ease bags of mulch/soil, your weeding tub, or even plants around your garden. Much easier to move than a wheel barrel and uses little room for storage when not in use.

(5) Rouge Hoe ($38.95).  I like to buy tools once! I expect them to last and take the beating I am going to put them through.  That is why I love the Rouge brand.  Built to last a life time with a thick tempered steel head and sturdy hickory handle.  Handcrafted in the US the Prohoe is an essential tool for the serious gardener who believes is using the right tool for the job.

(6) Norwegian Wood ($16.96). I found this book up in Minneapolis over the summer and purchased to use with all the fire wood we have thanks to the plight of our ash trees from emerald ash borer. It will take your wood stacks to an art form and ensure you have excellent firewood for evening fire pits. I am using it to perfect my wood walls and chopping methods, a much better use of all the dead ash trees than the wood chipper.

(7) The Botanist Gin ($40ish) – Gin and tonic is my drink of choice, and Botanist Gin is my gin of choice. I found it at our local liqueur store and purchased it purely based on name and stunning bottle design. Distilled in Scotland on the Isle of Islay using local botanicals, it is a pure and clean gin. I mix with Fever Tree Tonic, but am open to any suggestions of other tonics to try (have also used Q Tonic). You cannot go wrong with this for any gin lover, let alone a plant geek gin lover.

(8) Paul Bangay: The Garden at Stonefields ($88.65). As I write this, Amazon only has one more copy remaining, so first come first served. This book was released back in 2013, but we were not able to easily get your hands on a copy in the USA. I just got a copy this week and have not had a chance to read yet, but the photos alone are amazing. The book provides the evolution of the gardens at Paul’s personal residence, from conception, during installation and on going care and maturity. This provides you the framework for how the great garden was created, an often secretive side gardens.





Book Recommendations – Plant Combinations

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So I am officially in The Netherlands now, so this post is launching via some help back at home. I have a deep weak spot for design books. In my suitcase I am bringing an extra bag just for flying home all the garden design books I plan to buy throughout my trip. Here are two book recommendations for those who are also looking for some good plant selection books to add to their library.


Designer Plant Combinations, by Scott Calhoun 

This book includes 105 combinations using 6 plants or fewer. The book is grouped by perennials, annuals, groundcovers, etc so you can look within the type of combination you would like. It also has photos of the combo in landscape, plus the individual plants. The photos of the combo in landscape/planted are nice if you are not 100% familiar with the specific plant so you can see how the plants relate with scale and texture. This is a book I have stored next to my desk for quick reference when I need some inspiration for mixing etc. From Amazon here.


Natural Companions, Ken Druse

This book was released in March 2012, and I came across while browsing my local Barnes & Noble so I am behind on the ranting and raving. What first struck me about this book was the use of photography to show the plant combinations; Individual plants photographed on a black background in a very artistic and striking view. The book is grouped around seasons/zones and the combos highlight plants that bloom at the same time. In my review the majority of the combos include photos also in a landscape setting. I did not purchase this book, it is next on the list of purchases (need to wait until after my book buying on this trip). If anyone has additional inputs on this book I would love to hear, but from the photos alone (by Ellen Hoverkamp) should make this a must buy. From Amazon here.

I should have two more posts scheduled for while I am gone, then I will be bombarding you with photos from my trip.

Private Gardens of Connecticut – details

Book Recommendation

Here are some detail images from Private Gardens of Connecticut by Jane Garmey and all photographs by John M. Hall.

Stone fountain covered in algae. The delicate plant is papyrus.
Boxwoods in urns flank an opening in the hedge. 
Clipped Hornbeam within a boxwood parterre.
A natural waterfall with ferns, evergreens and moss.
Large azalea (purple) with Peonies and a stone wall in the foreground.
Boxwoods in turf used as sculpture. 
Mixture of Hostas with Hakonechloa. 

Garden Library – Two Recommendations

Book Recommendation

This weekend I picked up two new books for my design library, Gardens of the Hudson Valley and Private Gardens of Connecticut. I recommend both books for your own library.

Both books reflect gardens on a grand scale, but feature elements that can be applied to any size garden. Showcasing interesting mixing of plants, hardscapes and structures, the books include wide landscape views as well as detailed views of unique areas. As implied by the titles, the gardens reflect formal, traditional designs often seen on the east coast, but include some modern, woodland and prairie designs also. Over the next few days I will provide details on some of my favorite gardens featured in each book since neither book provide detailed plant identification for novice gardeners.

Purchase via Amazon:
Gardens of the Hudson Valley
Private Gardens of Connecticut