Sunday, August 02, 2009

Discovering Welsh Gardens: a review

Stephen Anderton's new book on gardens of Wales, photographed by Charles Hawes, came out almost simultaneously with yet another book on gardens of Wales. This is the one to buy. Anderton's historical commentary and critical assessment of the gardens he visits give them a reality that far surpasses the usual travelogue with photos. Charles Hawes photographs pick out detail and features that help give the reader an understanding of the spatial "narrative" of the gardens, and provide the necessary visual support to make Anderton's ideas easily accessible.

The nicks and shortcomings of some of the gardens Anderton describes give them a reality, for me, that the other book on gardens of Wales lacks. He places each garden within the larger landscape, writes about the light and exposure, spatial relationships, flaws, successes, "workarounds" to deal with difficult sites, the layered history of such old gardens as Powis Castle, all of which left me with a three-dimensional visual memory of the gardens. From the distance of a few months since reading this book, it's almost like I was really in these gardens -- the quality of the memories is as real as that of gardens I have actually visited.

Click on the photo to purchase this book from Amazon, or go to your favorite book store.


  1. I'm off to Snowdonia at the end of the month so hopefully I will be able to visit a couple of these gardens.

  2. James - this is lovely to see, as wife of the photographer. But more than that I do think you express so brilliantly just what we gain when someone is able to do honest reviews of gardens.(though Stephen is a great writer too - and funny) And there will be something to learn even if these are gardens you never visit: it moves garden writing on from travelogue and pap. Thanks for giving the book a boost.

  3. patientgardener,
    Hope you do get to make some garden visits.

  4. Anne,
    This is a book I'll go back to because it offers something more on each reading.

  5. James, I'll be getting this book, thanks for the thoughtful review,when I was seventeen, my parents and I spent a holiday in wales and Ireland,staying for a few nights at Portmarion....the grounds and follies have inspired me ever since.B

  6. Brian,
    I wish I had been so lucky. I've never been to
    Wales. Hope you enjoy the book. It's a very interesting take on several gardens. It's critical attitude, not critical in a negative way, makes the gardens more memorable.



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