Planning a garden from scratch is intimidating and a good book on garden design is a big help. Sunset’s Big Book of Garden Designs is one such book. It contains over 110 complete landscaping plans for a wide range of purposes and sites complete with plant lists, planting diagrams, and pictures or photos of completed gardens. If you need ideas this book is chocked full of them and will provide inspiration even when you feel you have “designer’s block”.
The book is divided into two sections. The first deals with general areas that are common to almost every garden; entryways, sitting spots such as patios, passage ways, beds and borders, and backyards. For each design a photograph or illustration shows you the planting during its peak season. A plot plan shows the area occupied by each type of plant, and the color of the flowers or foliage. An accompanying plant list names the plants with both common and botanical names, and indicates the number of each plant needed. Additional information is given including the Sunset zones where the design can be expected to do well and possible substitutions to make the design more useful in other zones. The number of designs given just for entryway is 17! Surely there is an idea for everyone there.
The second section of the book presents designs for specialized or theme gardens such as cutting garden, alpine-inspired niche, and backyard prairie. Here is where you will find a plan to make personalized space that reflects your special interests and likes. The format is the same as in the first section with plot plan, plant list, notes on suitable zones where the garden is most likely to thrive, and possible substitutions. One of my favorites is the part on cottage gardens where three different kinds of cottage garden are presented, one of which is for areas where water is in short supply. Another design that attracted my attention was one featuring deer resistant plants.
Authors Marianne Lipanovich and Tom Wilhite provide a comprehensive look at garden design complete with the basic information you need when planning your garden spaces. There is even a Sunset zone map identifying the 50 zones plus descriptions of the conditions in each zone. Based on the concept of plant combinations, the authors’ suggestions can be used as presented or reworked to create new and original designs. The pictures and photographs alone inspire a flow of ideas that make planning a garden a fun and rewarding experiences.