First-class garden design books

Garden design books can be great sources of information and inspiration when you’re trying to decide what to do in your garden.

There are plenty of books out there – in fact, so many that it’s hard to choose one – but these are three that I consider indispensable.

Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Perennials

I’ve seen and read many perennial garden design books, but still I like Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Perennials best.

I was lucky to find to this book I was learning about garden design and working on my first perennial garden, and used it so much over the years that it fell apart. But I couldn’t imagine being without it, so I promptly bought another copy! I find myself referring to this book often while other perennial books sit on the shelf.

The book is loaded with user-friendly information on soil, climate, planting and dividing perennials, and non-toxic pest and disease control. But its emphasis is on garden design – and what you really need know to create a satisfying flower garden.

Sample garden designs for different conditions (sun, shade) are included, and there’s solid advice about choosing plants that will give you color from spring through to frost.

Once you’ve settled on a flower garden design and layout, the encyclopedia section detailing perennials from acanthus to yucca is especially useful. Each plant comes with a color photo, growing and cultivar information, helpful suggestions for using it in your garden design and other perennials to plant with it.

When I was starting out, this was *the book* that simplified flower garden design and helped me every step along the way.

Perennial Combinations: Stunning Combinations That Make Your Garden Look Fantastic

Another wonderful book from C. Colston Burrell and Rodale Press is Perennial Combinations.

This guide helps you put perennials together in attractive combinations.

The book is organized into practical categories based on available light and different backyard conditions.

It’s very helpful with lots of great photographs, and makes my highly recommended list too.

Canadian visitors – links to

Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Perennials: 10th Anniversary Revised & Expended Edition

Perennial Combinations: Stunning Combinations That Make Your Garden Look Fantastic

A foolproof approach to garden design

I’ve looked at a lot of garden design books, and I think Your House, Your Garden: A Foolproof Approach to Garden Design, by garden designer Gordon Hayward is one of the best. Hayward has 25 years of garden design experience and is also the author of four other garden design books, including Stone in the Garden.

While the Rodale book above goes in detail on designing with perennials, this book isn’t a what-to-plant-where guide. Instead, it focuses on the importance on creating inviting outdoor spaces and solving common problems.

The two books complement each other to give you information on all the basics you might be looking for in a garden design book.

Hayward tackles some of the most vexing problems homeowners struggle with: what to do about eyesores such as power lines and meter boxes, propane tanks, satellite dishes, leach fields and more. Organized by chapters on the main parts of the yard – front, side, back, courtyards and the areas between buildings and outbuildings such as sheds and garages – this a garden design book that offers creative solutions for many common problems.

For Hayward, gardens aren’t just about plants (although plants are, of course, vital to any garden), but also about paths, patios, sitting areas, stone walls, garden furniture and ornaments.

The book’s attractive watercolor illustrations and color photographs show the “how-to” of integrating plants with inviting steps, paths, steps, arbors and attractive fences.

Canadian visitors:

Check this book out at Your House, Your Garden: A Foolproof Approach to Garden Design

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