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February 15, 2010


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Oh, I see. Of course you're right about the traditional formal, fussy English gardens of yore. Maybe it's been wishful thinking on my part but based on the pages of Gardens Illustrated in recent years, I see heartening signs of non-fussy, site-sensitive English (and Euro) design. I thought of it (hopefully?) as engaging with the agrarian history of England, with sweeps of meadow plants, and preservation of hedgerows, bluebell copses, and even historical earth sculpting projects like ha has! The more ambitiously designed European gardens also seem more "planty" (a good quality) to me than their American counterparts, which have tended towards ostentatious in their expanses of hardscaping, highly engineered walls and overabundance of outdoor furniture. Too technical! But maybe I'm being optimistic about developments overseas - and I know there's some great design going on in the US, too. I wonder what Fergus Garrett would say?

valerie Easton

Hi Kate,
So interesting your comment on how the earth sculpting ideas seem so English to you - I get it with the mazes, which are more formal, but mostly earth sculpting seems to me so modern, graphic, and naturalistic in that it mimics nature despite its man-made sculptural qualities. So I guess it seems anything but fussily British to me...although I did see my first full-scale earth-sculpted landscape outside the modern art museum in Edinburgh,its smooth hills and furrows a startling contrast to the very old and ornate building....

Carol Hill

I have sculpted my lawn into a river flowing around my house. When we moved in seven years ago, there was just lawn, huge horrible junipers that came out immediately, and a few great old trees. I've carved away most of the lawn and planted many things, leaving (besides some new plantings against the house) a swath of green about 6-10 feet wide circling the house. Sometimes I think of it as a moat, but it's not a barrier - it's a lovely swimming stroll with interesting things growing on both sides.


Somehow, earth furrows and mazes and of course the famous ha-ha all seem like very English ideas. Sort of like the English sense of humor, the gardens of England seem... sillier. In a very nice way. Perhaps we need sillier gardens, too!

Ray Larson

Hi Val,
This is a great idea. I continue to think that adding some sort of earthwork, even a small one, gives our landscape spaces added interest and drama--no matter the season. There is no reason, unless a site is set aside for an active use, that everything has to be so flat. In this city and region of hills, valleys and so much topography, our gardens are often devoid of this sense of our surroundings or what the land would naturally be if it had not been scraped, leveled or filled. The early "ecological art" movement in the 1970s used earthworks to great effect. However, even the subtle rise in a flower bed, or a contoured instead of straight edge to a planting area, can give this sense of a larger nature. A good reminder to think in 3 dimensions in the garden--and not just in terms of plants. Soil is generally inexpensive compared to plants, though granted the labor can be more intensive at first. But one thing I learned from landscape architect Keith Geller, is that even small elevation changes can have a great effect in how we move through space, and how a garden "feels."

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New Book: Petal & Twig

  • Petal & Twig Made The New York Times!
    From Anne Raver's review: "Valerie Easton, a Seattle-based garden writer, discusses the art of growing and arranging cut flowers in “Petal and Twig: Seasonal Bouquets With Blossoms, Branches and Grasses From Your Garden” (Sasquatch Books; $16.95). Written as an informal diary, with photographs of arrangements from her own garden, and tips on cutting and keeping flowers fresh, the book inspires ideas not only on what to grow but on how to combine (or not) those beauties inside. See review here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/29/garden/new-books-on-growing-and-arranging-flowers.html?scp=1&sq=petal%20&%20twig%20anne%20raver&st=cse
  • The first reviews on the new book are in! From Publisher's Weekly:
  • "Open your eyes and keep it simple: those are two lessons Easton passes on from her own 40 years in the garden. When selecting and arranging flowers for bouquets, you needn’t spend a bundle buying a bundle of imported flowers.....The result will be unique, local, imaginative, and inexpensive. Color photos throughout illustrate and inspire."

In the News

  • Montreal Blogger Reviews "A Pattern Garden"
    I was so pleased to find that "A Pattern Garden" is still being reviewed...check out Allan Becker's generous review on his Garden Guru blog.. I felt like Allan really understood what I was working towards in that book....he writes...."There is a delightful abstract quality to this publication. In it, the author takes good garden design to a higher, more spiritual level. Instead of discussing the aesthetic and scientific elements of design, as so many traditional garden design books do, she focuses on the role played in garden design by archetypal ideas - a.k.a. patterns - that reference the longings of human beings. These pleasure and comfort-rooted ideas are those that inspire designers to create gardens that are satisfying beyond their beauty." see more at http://allanbecker-gardenguru.squarespace.com/journal/valerie-easton
  • Planting art
    Check out this interview with Val in the Chicago Tribune on using art in the garden...

The New Low Maintenance Garden

  • Reviews Are In....
    "Over the years, countless books have espoused a low-maintenance approach to gardening. None have been as engaging, practical, or inspiring as this latest of Easton's contributions to the gardener's bookshelf,"
    - Pacific Horticulture magazine, Jan/Feb/Mar 2010

    "A handy guide to a garden you can raise without a corresponding increase in your blood pressure..handsome and informative...."
    - Metropolitan Home, Dec. 2009

    "This book is an invaluable addition to the garden library – destined to be a classic for many years to come."
    - Garden Design Online

Photo Credits

  • The banner and portrait photos were taken by Jacqueline Koch; all other photos by Val Easton unless otherwise credited.


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