Thursday, October 4, 2012

Book Review - 1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die


1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die

By: Rae Spencer-Jones
Publisher: Barron's Educational Series, 2nd edition
Publication Date: October 2012
ISBN: 978-0764165719
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: October 5, 2012

This new, second edition of 1001 Gardens is a botanical delight, sure to excite anybody who loves to explore new places where all sorts of horticultural delights await. From gardens in the United States to more exotic locations like Morocco and Grenada, you’ll find some amazing gardens, just begging to be discovered.

True to the title, there are 1001 gardens covered in this book. Okay, I admit it, I didn’t actually count them all, but at a hefty 960 pages, I doubt the publisher skimped! Most of the gardens have a full page dedicated to them (a few here and there only get half a page), with the name of the garden at the top of the page, the town/country directly underneath, and then some details – designer, owner, garden style, size, climate, and a more specific location. This is followed by a write-up that includes some history of the garden, what sets it apart from other horticultural spots and in most cases, a photograph of the garden. There are a LOT of photos in this book and so many of them just make you stop and say, “ohhh…I want to go there!”

There are so many gardens covered in this book (yes, I know, 1001), that it’s hard to know what to mention in a review. There are the well-known places such as the New York Botanical Garden, the Royal Botanic Gardens in England and Versailles in France (which deservedly gets two photos!); little known gardens like Xi Hu in China, the unusual (check out the human heads in the Hannah Peschar Sculpture Garden in England), and the downright creepy Villa Orsini in Italy, with its giant ogre face which “invites you to step into its mouth and enter Hades.”

The gardens are organized by geographic location and include North America, Europe, Asia, Central and South America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and Islands. There is also a garden names index at the front of the book and at the back, sections on climate classification systems, useful addresses, and a garden directory.

Because of the enormous scope of this book, it should be viewed as a starting point for deciding where you’d like to go. It’s not really meant as a companion travel guide, and at almost 1000 pages, you’d have to pay extra to bring it on the plane with you – this book is heavy! There are no entry fees mentioned in this book (I know some of these places do charge), and some gardens may not be open to the public or only open at specific times. So use 1001 Gardens as a starting point and then go from there. Once you decide on a travel destination, you would be well advised to study further on the gardens you wish to visit.

Quill says: In the preface, Dr. Elizabeth Scholtz says the task to assemble this book of 1001 gardens is “staggering and inspiring in its range.” We have to agree!