Monday, August 11, 2014

REMAKING A GARDEN, THE LASKETT TRANSFORMED, A book review

In the summer of 2014 I visited two English gardens, The Lost Gardens of Heligan and Upton Grey, both of which had been brought back from dereliction to their former glory. I found it fascinating to learn what such an endeavor might entail. So, when I was offered the opportunity to review the book, Remaking a Garden, The Laskett Transformed, by Roy Strong, I jumped at the chance to learn about another such garden. The book is really a collaboration between the garden maker Sir Roy Strong and the photographer Clive Boursnell who photographed the remaking every step of the way.


So what and where is the Laskett. The Laskett, the name meaning 'a strip of land without the parish,' is a 4 acre property in the village of Much Birch situated between Ross-on-Wye and Hereford in England. It was purchased by Roy Strong and his wife Julia Trevelyan Oman in 1973. They made their first forays into the Laskett garden design in 1974. Neither had any formal training in horticulture or garden design but they both brought with them skills from their professions which were to stand them in good stead as they began the transformation of the field alongside their house into a garden. In Roy Strong's words they were 'gardening on a shoestring.'


After the photographer's and author's foreword the first chapter opens with Roy Strong telling the fascinating story of the development of this intensely personal garden. A garden of many rooms; an Arts and Crafts style garden with each garden named for some important occasion or person in their lives. But thirty years on and following the sudden death of his wife, Julia, Roy Strong becomes aware that change must come to the garden. The garden must move forward into the future. He begins the remaking. This story is told in succeeding chapters, each garden space with a few words by Roy Strong followed by photographs depicting the whole process of re-design.  The photographer, Clive Boursnell, whose idea it was to photograph the whole 10 year undertaking, lived in a camper on the property during that period of time. His photographs depict the garden at all times of the working day and in all seasons; before and after the renovation and most especially action shots of the gardeners, painters, builders, tree surgeons and artists as they went about their daily business. Roy Strong refers to these people as the cast.


The book is a feast for the eyes, from the endpapers, which depict a collage of garden photographs to the account of the garden making and remaking, the photos of the whole process and the delightful plan of the garden, by Jonathan Myles-Lea, which remind me of a John Speed map from his world atlas. I believe that this book would be an inspiration to any gardener.


The book teaches nothing about gardening except one most important thing. There comes a time when every gardener must stand back and take a critical look at his own garden and be unafraid to make changes. 


I hope one day to be able to visit the garden although for someone living overseas this is a challenge because the garden can only be visited as part of a group tour and not as an individual. Anyone who visits this garden would benefit enormously from having read this book.

Sir Roy Strong is an historian, garden writer, lecturer, and critic. He was Director of the national Portrait Gallery 1967-1973 and of the Victoria and Albert Museum from 1974-1987.

Clive Boursnell is a photographer of architecture, gardens, landscapes and people. His early training was in classical ballet and before his photographic career he worked as a geophysical prospector, professional mountaineer and assistant glaciologist.

The book is published by Frances Lincoln Ltd.

6 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading your review. Thank you

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  2. "One most important thing" indeed. Thank you Jenny, not only for your review of the nuts and bolts of the book, but for the very fascinating glimpse into the its heart, and indeed, into the heart of the garden as well. I do hope you'll get the chance to visit one day!

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  3. Wouldn't it be lovely to visit this garden! I am putting the book on my wish list : )

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  4. Fascinating! What a wonderful thing to have all that history and re-making of the garden documented in such a way! I love to see the progressions of gardens and how they are made. I hope you somehow get a chance to visit someday, too!

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  5. Roy's book on Small Gardens was one of my earliest purchases when we designed our first garden. Since then, I've read and bought a number of his other books including The Laskett. I am fascinated by such a personal garden with so much meaning and so much thought going into every step. After 20 years in our garden, and losses of trees to storms and weather and other issues of an aging garden and two aging gardeners, I thought his new book would be a must read for me and Mark. Alas, we will not have his helpers to make whatever changes we decide upon!

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  6. Rock Rose- a little off topic, but I just saw your garden on "Central Texas Gardener" on You-tube. Just wonderful!

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