This review appears in the current issue of Gardens Illustrated
“I do hold it in the royal ordering of gardens, there ought to be gardens for all months in the year, in which, severally, things of beauty may then be in season.” So said Francis Bacon in 1625, a thought presented at the very front of this book.
Of course, this approach depends on having enough space for plantings around the garden which will be at their peak, one by one, as the months pass. Renowned American plantsman David Culp has enough, two acres at Brandywine Cottage west of Philadelphia, and while this idea has influenced his planting he has gone further and in doing so has developed a concept which gardeners with far less space will surely appreciate.
His idea of a layered garden involves not only a physical hierarchy of planting to maximise the commitment to beauty from any one area – shrub above, bulbs above low ground cover perhaps – but also, in the same space, a succession of flowers and foliage from the first glimmers of spring to fall’s fading. Every square inch of garden makes a constant contribution to the beauty of the whole.
In a larger space this approach creates a saturated richness of planting in which, at every season, there are plants and plant combinations in a rolling succession of colour and form and texture. By changing, as the seasons roll by, the predominant colour of different areas excitement peaks at different times, in different places. It’s as if a series of different gardens occupy the one space.
In David’s revelations of how his plantings are created, his excitement is always bubbling just below the surface of his very readable text - and every now and then it breaks right out. Rob Cardillo’s fine photography captures the sweeps of the borders at Brandywine Cottage as well as the intricate detail of individual flowers. British readers should appreciate that the winter climate is much colder than in Britain, but his ideas and approaches are equally valid on both sides of the Atlantic.
David describes himself as an “equal-opportunity seeker of the sublime” and says “my rule for designing a garden is that there are no rules”, an approach which ensures that his plantings, and this book about it, are full of ideas to enrich your garden.
The Layered Garden by David L. Culp is published by Timber Press
- A tempting recipe for rich, all-season planting
- His excitement in creating appealing plantings comes right through
- Very readable text based on intense experience
- Impressive pictures by Rob Cardillo
With thanks to Gardens Illustrated for permission to post this review on my blog.