Garden design can mean many different things to different people but to author Julie Moir Messervy, it is a journey of discovery. It involves looking within ourselves and creating a garden in the mind based on favorite memories such as childhood experiences and places visited. This inward, imaginary garden is then transformed into reality with a garden on the land. Messervy’s book, The Inward Garden, takes the reader through seven steps that provide both the structure for building the imaginary garden in the mind and the practical process for creating a garden design that reflects the personal values and feelings of the designer.
The book is organized around the seven steps involved in designing a garden. Messervy begins by exploring the meaning of a garden to help readers clarify the purpose of a garden in their own lives. The author explores seven archetypal places including the sea, cave, harbor, promontory, island, mountain, and sky, to evoke personal memories and emotional associations in the reader that help construct garden images filled with feeling. She goes on to help the reader analyze both the inward and outward sites and then examine seven fundamental images of garden design, the grove, the hut, the realm, the threshold, the meadow, the mount, and the spring, in regard to their historical, psychological, and aesthetic meaning for the landscape. Using the image of a journey for composing the elements of a landscape into a coherent whole and Messervy describes two approaches to garden design and continues with a series of case studies to show how themes or concepts, which she calls “big ideas”, suggest the form and layout of the garden. In the final chapter the author gives practical suggestions for making the garden a reality, including maintenance, ecological responsibilities, and using professionals.
Garden plans illustrating the methods described in the text conclude the work. Numerous photographs are included that are visually pleasing but poorly integrated with the text. For gardeners who want a unique approach to garden design, this book is invaluable.