Landscape Planning: Practical Techniques for the Home Gardener

by Judith Adam

Published by Firefly Books

224 pages, 2002

Buy it online





A Little Planning

Reviewed by Laura-Jean Kelly


If you are wishing to begin the process of evaluating your front and back yard and developing a landscape plan, you can start by reading Landscape Planning. However, if it's garden design help you want you won't find it here. Landscape Planning by Judith Adam provides the would-be green thumb a basic toolbox stuffed with ideas on how to work with a landscape. "It all begins with understanding the essential differences in scale and concept between gardening and landscaping." What the homeowner needs to bring to this effort is a love of plants and a desire to get moving. Landscaping is defined as "a practical method of dividing your outdoor space, relating one area to another in a way that makes sense and requires a broader look at the whole." Garden design is something else. Garden design is defined as "a process of imparting style and character to a landscape that reflect the interests ideas and temperament of the gardener."

"Planning has everything to do with prioritizing needs and little to do with satisfying wish-fulfillment." Do not look for whimsy and romance because they are not included in this book. There are, however, many strong examples of practical solutions to tricky problems, like clever ways to catch water and prevent puddling in a lawn. Adam makes you think hard about making work for yourself and cautions us to think twice before using materials such as wood and traditional paint.

The book is divided into six chapters. The first chapter takes us through some defining sequences and a basic understanding of principles of a site. She defines terms that can make homeowners crazy: like garden design and landscaping and gardening. For the lay person they may all sound the same but the author makes clear the distinctions and differentiations between the streams of help available. Beyond the clarity, she answers fundamental questions like "Why am I Doing This?" In the second chapter, Adam takes the reader on a step-by-step process of analysis; accounting for the "... assets and debits inherent in the site, balanced against a realistic projection of how you would like to use the space."

Chapter three provides us with the details of elements such as Raised Edges and Retaining walls, Driveways, Pathways, Pools and Ponds. There are many good and simple examples of how to deal with pesky landscape problems like puddling water in a lawn. Judith includes sketches and step-by-step procedures on how to build things like gravel paths and stepping-stone paths. The remaining three chapters are about plants. She gives us up to 10 choices of the best plants for different functions; quick growing temporary plants for shade, slow growing permanent plants for shade, best dwarf evergreen foundation plants, seasonally timed plants. Adam makes certain the reader does not get seasick from swimming through the often swelled seas of plant choices found in many current garden books and garden centers. There are enough plants selected for variety of color, texture and form to whet the appetite and solve problems. Included in the last chapter is a quick overview of pests and diseases to watch for and a guide to pruning and maintaining your newly installed landscape.

Landscape Planning is formulated to assist gardeners in the eastern part of North America in their tasks and this is reflected in materials and plants that are suggested in this book. With that said, Judith Adam approaches an often daunting task in a straightforward manner and provides the homeowner with a thorough primer on landscape management. If you are a beginner, this is one book that will cut through the maze of trends and styles to educate with practical advice. | June 2002


Laura-Jean Kelly is a landscape architect and horticulturist.