Bebe Bradley's picture

REVIEW: The Thoughtful Gardener

Garden designer Jinny Blom’s work is defined by both her skill with plants and an ability to create a garden that responds to the site’s context, both historically and in the wider landscape. In this book, Jinny shares her insight into the creative process she has developed whilst designing more than 250 gardens around the world.

Each of Jinny’s creations are as different as the owners and their locations. She designs for longevity and with consideration for the environment. With a modern take on traditional form and the utmost attention to structure and detail, the gardens share a commitment to considered planting and beautiful craftsmanship. The styles vary considerably; ranging from the logical, the calm, the beautiful and the romantic, to the naturalistic, the formal and, on occasion, the minimal.

In the foreword by cultural critic Paula Deitz, we are told that, “Rare is the garden book, like this one, that makes the reader feel personally included as a friend in a long conversation with the writer.” It’s true. There is an intimate and intensely personal feel to this book. There is a passion and its beginning is explained by Jinny herself in her introduction Waking Up: How It All Began. An epiphany at the age of 36, experienced whilst on holiday in Spain, brought forth her true vocation (she originally trained and practised as a psychologist and psychotherapist for 12 years). Over the last twenty years, she has progressed from, “apprentice to journeyman to master craftsman”, learning first-hand from numerous masters of the gardening arts.

There are six chapters, five of which include themed case studies. The first chapter is about Seeing and here, Jinny explains that, “Seeing is not just about the gift of sight, it is about the dawning of a greater comprehension and deeper insight into a subject.” It’s about Trusting Your Instincts and she strongly believes that, “Outside spaces cannot be designed in CAD. Computers undeniably have a place and we all use them, but a genuine appreciation of the emotional and esoteric aspects of design can only be understood if one actually gets to grips with how the space feels.”

The second chapter is Understanding, with sections including Respecting What You Unearth, The Plant Matrix and the case-study The Anti-Garden. The next chapter, Structuring, focuses on the “skeletal structure” of the garden and includes sections such as The Necessary Corsets, Orientation, The Fundamentals of Planning a Layout, Routes and Views, and Water. Chapter 4, Harmonizing, looks at “using a carefully selected palette of ingredients”, to ensure that the garden settles “seamlessly into place”. Sections here include Loving the Tune, Creating Context and Art and Sculpture.

Rooting is the next chapter and, of course, concerns planting, with advice on various types of plants alongside The Gardener is the Garden, Structuring and Layering Planting and The Kitchen Door. The final chapter is literally Liberating, where, “The garden is born. And this is where we let it go and watch it draw its full breath of life”. With the ground work laid, the emphasis here is on maintaining the creation, with Conservation, The Art of Gardening and The Patient Protector amongst the sections.

I don’t think that I have ever come across a gardening book quite like this. The gardens featured are stunning and revealing of Jinny’s unmistakeable talent. I’m not quite sure just how I can express this adequately but the gardens look right. Every single garden featured in this book looks like it has always been there, inextricably part of its surroundings. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, Jinny has an undeniable skill in planting in context. So often you see gardens that look 'gardened', that jar against their surroundings, but not here. This book takes you on a beautiful, knowledgeable journey through process, artistry and practicality, and should appeal to any thoughtful gardener.

The Thoughtful Gardener by Jinny Blom
Published by Jacqui Small LLP and available in hardback at RRP £35

ISBN-10: 1910254592
ISBN-13: 978-1910254592