Monday, 6 March 2017

Gardens of the National Trust book

Today's freebie - Gardens of the National Trust by Stephen Lacey

How did I get it? A competition win

This took some reading. It's so big and heavy that I couldn't read it on my daily commute, and propping it up to read in bed or bath was tiring. I made it to the end though, even though I was quite bored at times. Neither encyclopedia not photographic table-book, it's an expensive (£30!) folly, I feel.

This review is from my Goodreads page.


Gardens of the National TrustGardens of the National Trust by Stephen Lacey
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a weighty book, well over 400 glossy pages. Those pages contain the expected beautifully shot photos of most of the National Trust's gardens. I very much doubt that anyone will ever be disappointed by a visit to one of the gardens as they are cared for by an army of dedicated experts.

The gardens are not just pretty to look at, they are also interesting and informative - an education in horticulture, history of gardening, gardening itself. Many are also productive, using traditional techniques to grow produce used in restaurants and tea rooms at the property. Unlike many of the buildings in the Trust's care the gardens aren't preserved, they are always improved, renovated or restored.

And yet it's hard to see where this book lies in highlighting this. The size and expense lead it to being a coffee-table book. One couldn't carry this as a portable guide to the gardens, one wouldn't heave it around the garden for tips - apart from the odd page from NT gardeners there are few practical gardening hints here.

The book is of greatest interest to plantspeople, those that really want to know exactly which variety of a particular plant is found at which property and probably recognise it from it's Latin name. It's a very specific book and that's what made it quite dull for ordinary garden enjoyers like me. The first few paragraphs give an interesting overview of the garden or property but after that it's lots of wordy detail of the garden contents, lists of plants and features.

It's a shame that the beauty of the garden is given over to words. Take this example from Ascott early in the book:
"Here the grounds open into an extensive arboretum, the foreground to a sweeping panorama across the Vale of Aylesbury to the Chiltern Hills...Everywhere, there are trees of eccentric habit and hue: weeping, cut-leaved and copper beeches, blue, golden and weeping cedars, variegated sweet chestnut, purple maple, cut-leaved alder, yellow catalpa - the scene further enriched in autumn by the potent tints of scarlet oak, red maple, tulip tree and liquidambar. In spring, waves of yellow and white daffodils wash over the slopes, followed by colonies of snakeshead fritillaries and native wildflowers".

All this accompanied by a single picture of an avenue of trees (in summer, not autumn or spring) either side of a road. That's it, not a single flower in sight. At £30 I would prefer a lot more glossy photos and far fewer words. If you were really interested in the detail of gardens you'd be more likely to just go than to want to read about the gardens, I feel. Those that could be swayed into visiting probably aren't drawn in enough by the too few photos.

One for the specialist.


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[This book is too heavy to post as a giveaway. My copy has been donated to a local charity shop that raises money for a local childrens' hospice]