Garden Design Master Class book cover

The cover of “Garden Design Master Class: 100 Lessons from the World’s Finest Designers on the Art of the Garden,” published by Rizzoli.

It was Roman philosopher and statesman, Marcus Tullius Cicero, who said, “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

These are two of my favorite things come together in a beautiful new book from Rizzoli, “Garden Design Master Class: 100 Lessons from the World’s Finest Designers on the Art of the Garden.” And if you’re looking for a comprehensive book that bonds and connects all kindred spirits creating, growing and inspiring gardens, seek no further.

The concept is simple. Collect essays from 100 of the world’s most celebrated garden and landscape designers telling us what inspires them, how they work, what they’re planting and why. Making this valuable knowledge and insight come alive in vivid, full-page photos accompanying each of the essays, rendering this book difficult to put down. As we gardeners have been at it since the birth of agriculture, this coffee table book is a collectable testament to how far we have come and how much we have accomplished in this work that is truly a passion.

What’s also enjoyable in the book’s essays is a prevailing generous intellect among these talented gardeners, who are totally “down to earth” in sharing what they discovered and come to know in the course of gardening being its own reward. It’s sure to find itself on the shelves among other classics of gardening and its design, and even more surely to be treasured by amateur gardeners, students of garden design and garden design professionals themselves.

Brimming with applicable how-to information, the essays are grouped by theme, informing on theory, process, style, structure, elements and inspiration. They serve to immerse the reader deeper into the experience of all things garden.

Not surprisingly, greater Bedford is well represented here with essays by such noted neighbor gardeners as Page Dickey, whose writing in the “Elements” theme discusses self-seeding plants, and Sarah Kowitz’s historic walled garden on her Fairlight Hall estate in East Sussex, England, originally built in 1850. 

It was interesting to read in a brief aside from this book that during the Victorian era it became a game of one-upmanship as teams of gardeners competed to be the first to grow the rarest and most exotic fruit, vegetables and flowers. Displaying a pineapple as a centerpiece for an important dinner party was so highly prized, that exotic fruits were available to be rented by the day for such occasions. 

Another local gardener of major note included here is Pamela Fontaine Salvatore, included in the “Structure” section, where she cites her creative use of pathways wending through the acres of the enchanted garden she has created on her Bedford property. 

As a board member at the Wave Hill Gardens and Cultural Center in the Bronx, one of our country’s most magnificent gardens, in addition to being a member on the Advisory Council at the Cornell Botanic Gardens for several years, Ms. Salvatore confides, “It’s been an inspiration over the decades to study various disciplines of design and learn how shared ideas of different cultures evolve into stylistic hallmarks used by gardeners the world over. However, I must say, after learning from study, the generous intellect of experts and other kindred spirits, the consummate teacher in gardening is nature. It’s then in the selecting, digging, planting and grooming our gardens with caring creativity, that one shapes their own individual style.”

Olivia Farr, co-founder of Bedford 2030, said of Ms. Salvatore work with the organization, “Pamela’s help has been invaluable to Bedford 2030’s Healthy Soil Initiative, connecting us to scientists at Cornell University to better understand how to inventory our local land resources.”

Reviewing this special book would not be complete without citing two more of its many memorable quotes that appear in the essays. To wit, these words on garden design from Rosemary Verey of England: “It’s a sin to be dull.” And, from the great British playwright, George Bernard Shaw: “The best place to find God is in a garden. You can dig for him there.”

Kindred gardening spirits are welcome to contact Pamela Fontaine Salvatore at pamelafpsalvatore@gmail.com.

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