I love a new gardening book, which is a dangerous passion when so many fresh titles hit the shelves every year. Most are glossy, many interesting and just a handful destined to become classics. (Fewer still feature my own garden, so I confess to a degree of heathy bias when it comes to this post’s subject.) Cutting it on the coffee table is not an easy feat, but in Garden Design: A Book of Ideas, Marianne Majerus and Heidi Howcroft have carved themselves out a niche with their sharp images and pithy prose.
Make no mistake, this book is all about the photography. More than 600 ambrosial images are featured, lavishly strewn across 320 pages. Each one is the work of Luxembourg-born Marianne Majerus, who I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting on a number of occasions. A consummate professional, Marianne is happy to share the secrets of her great skill as a photographer, safe in the knowledge that few possess the dedication and artistry required to follow in her footsteps. Marianne is fastidious about choosing the right time of day and best weather conditions for her shots, setting each one up with incredible depth of field. What you cannot see in one of Marianne’s images is not worth seeing, and yet none of the gardens’ mood and magic is ever lost. Such consistency and quality makes for a book of rare quality. Any keen garden photographer will find Garden Design: A Book of Ideas as much of a page turner as any Jackie Collins or Ian Rankin (whichever tickles your fancy!).
Garden writer Heidi Howcroft must have found herself with a hard act to follow, but rose admirably to the challenge. In approximately a fifth of the page space, she manages to deliver tips and insights that enhance rather than detract from Marianne’s photography. Together, Marianne and Heidi take us on a journey from assessing a plot, through to deciding a style and choosing design details without so much as a chapter break. It’s an exhilarating rollercoaster ride of a book, packed with more ideas than any keen gardener or garden designer could need in a lifetime. What’s also refreshing is the absence of the usual suspects. Much as I admire the gardens at Sissinghurst, Hidcote, Biddulph and Stourhead, their triumphs are well catalogued elsewhere. This book brings to the fore work of lesser known, contemporary garden designers and gardeners, which has to be a good thing.
Garden Design: A Book of Ideas achieves exactly what it sets out to do – to be a visual compendium of the very best gardens and garden features in today’s design sphere. It is illustrated by one of the world’s finest garden photographers and accompanied by illuminating text from an eloquent and insightful garden writer. What more could one wish for in a garden design book?
Garden Design: A Book of Ideas (Hardback), by Heidi Howcroft and Marianne Majerus is published on March 15th by Octopus Publishing Group. ISBN: 9781845339210. Me and Him Indoors can be spied on page 19, under the heading ‘What Do You Want From Your Garden?’
All images copyright Marianne Majerus.