Books: Home Outside

Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love, by Julie Moir Messervy, is a great landscaping book. She also co-authored Outside the Not So Big House, but I was disappointed in that book when I realized that "Not So Big" was a philosophy, and the houses and properties featured were generally pretty stately.

This newest book, however, outlines several design principles, and guides the reader through the process of designing their yard into a space that is both usable and attractive. There are plenty of photos and examples for all types of yards.

The author helps you analyse your site and decide what you want from it. She then gives you some design ideas for layout (Exposed, Central Clearing, House Front and Centre or Open-Air Rooms) and aesthetics (All Lined Up, Voluptuous Curves, or On the Angle). Then she encourages you to pick a theme or idea that will pull it all together. I believe that if you create a design using her principles, it will look cohesive and attractive, no matter what the planner's style and preferences are.

She then outlines different zones on a property (Welcoming Zone by the entrance, Neighbouring Zone around the edges, Living zones including gathering, getaway and play zones), and how to make these areas not only functional, but so alluring that you actually want to use them. Traffic flow is discussed, including how to add places for pausing and ways to encourage movement through the landscape, and then how to place focal points and frames within the landscape. There is also a section on planting, water gardens and lighting.

This book won't tell you which plants to choose and where to put them, but it makes you want to turn your own garden into a more pleasurable place. In fact, before I read it, I was only mildly unsatisfied with my own small yard. After I read it, I was distinctly unsatisfied with it, but I was able to come up with a new plan that I hope will be both more functional and more attractive. Stay tuned for the results!

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