My favorite garden design book for mild weather gardens is, without a doubt, Garden Retreats: Creating An Outdoor Sanctuary. It’s not a giant compendium. It’s not a how-to design a garden book. And it’s not a plant encyclopedia. But it’s always been the one book I recommend to clients. In fact, it’s the one book I still turn to when I want to dream about a beautiful sanctuary.
Why does this little overlooked book beat out other books on gardening? Because of its simplicity. I’ve read a gazillion gardening books and most have a wealth of information, which is great, but at the same time that wealth can be overwhelming. They often say, “You can do this, or this, or this.” But if you’re a new gardener, you probably only need a few ideas to start.
How to Build a Backyard Sanctuary
Instead, author Barbara Ashmun will help you discover your own style. She takes readers on a tour of several gorgeous sanctuaries, many of which she’s helped design. And the photos by Allan Mandell help portray the sumptuousness. Meanwhile, you get a greatest hits list of the most interesting, easy-care plants for mild maritime climates. Though it’s written for the Pacific Northwest climate, the book applies not only to UK gardens but any milder weather climate, say zone 7 through 9, depending on annual rainfall.
What’s also special is Ashmun’s belief that flowers aren’t the star of a garden’s design but rather foliage, form, bark, fragrance, and privacy. She wisely guides readers into using all sizes of plants to create a beautiful space all year round. And that’s a valuable lesson for any new gardener in any climate zone. Don’t go for bright perennials that turn to mush in winter. Design with structure and year-round interest in mind. Luckily, this book shows you how.