You probably know Sir Roy Strong best as the former director of Britain's National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum, a writer, a historian, and a broadcaster. But he's also a landscape designer and gardener. His own garden, the Laskett, which he has described as "the portrait of a marriage," was created with his wife, theater designer Julia Trevelyan Oman, over 30 years.
In Remaking a Garden: The Laskett Gardens Transformed, (Frances Lincoln Ltd, 2014), Strong relates how in the course of those decades, the garden had become vastly overgrown. Vistas were destroyed, some areas became filled with weeds, and sunny areas turned to deep shade.
After Julia died in 2003, Strong spent a decade remaking the garden. As he says in the preface to the book, gardening is about change, and from time to time, about radical change. "The message to those who question whether to make such changes is not to hesitate but be bold. Gardening is like a picture that is never finished, one that is forever calling for alteration and retouching," he says.
More than 200 gorgeous photographs by Clive Boursnell document the process in great detail, garden "room" by garden "room." Hedges and trees came down; garden ornament was painted; statuary was moved; new borders were planted. Now, the gardens are open to pre-booked groups of 20 or more two days a week. If you are a designer or gardener who's interested in garden restoration, this book is definitely the one for you. And even if you're not into garden restoration, it's a marvelous story of one man's determination to make the garden his own.
Another noted British garden writer, Tim Richardson, has written a beautifully illustrated guide, now out in paperback, to some of the best gardens across the United States. Great Gardens of America (Frances Lincoln Ltd, 2014) contains portraits of 25 gardens, from Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate in Tarrytown, NY, to Lotusland in Santa Barbara, Innisfree in Millbrook, NY, and the Lurie Garden in Chicago.
Not every great garden is in this book, but Richardson is a terrific descriptive writer, and you will certainly appreciate his garden portraits. There can never be too many garden guides, and this one is a great addition to the bookshelf.