I haven’t been blogging much lately because of some extracurricular activities: gardening, taxes and research for a writing project. Now that one of those is finished, I thought I should share some of the gardening/landscaping books I’ve found the most useful and genuinely helpful in my landscaping projects.
Last year I built a patio, this year I’ve built several stone retaining walls. The book I relied on last year for stone work tips was David Reed’s The Art and Craft of Stonescaping (from Asheville’s own Lark Books).
It’s a very good book, and features some great projects, but focuses mainly on the craft of dry stone stacking. Several of the projects featured were major projects at the NC Arboretum and elsewhere, and as such are more aspirational than practical for a beginner like me. However the advice is sound and the pictures are inspirational, so it confirmed my desire to build a natural flagstone patio rather than an artificial brick surface, and provided enough direction for me to do the job properly.
This year I got a copy of Stonescaping Made Simple by Kristen Hampshire & David Griffin and found it’s much more step-by-step oriented and less purist (it’s OK to use concrete if you want to). Looking back, I probably wouldn’t have done very much differently when laying the patio, but I’ll be recommending Stonescaping Made Simple to beginners from now on. The projects in this book are much more down to earth, the directions are well illustrated, quite detailed and represent a more realistic assessment of what beginners can achieve.
For some reason, Stonescaping Made Simple is branded with the John Deere logo (doubtless the result of some expensive study that recommended “extending the brand”). What exactly John Deere has to with the average homeowner’s landscaping needs, I don’t know — I guess they make the large sit-on lawn movers that so many people buy even though they don’t really have enough lawn to need them. There are two gratuitous pages of tractor porn showcasing John Deere’s farming products, if that’s what floats your boat. But, unless you own the Biltmore Estate, you’re unlikely to need a tractor to build your backyard patio…
Anyway, both books get my thumbs up. Stonescaping Made Simple really does what it claims, and is my recommendation to all novice backyard stonemasons. The Art and Craft of Stonescaping is perfect once you’ve got some experience and really want to focus on an impressive piece of stone work.
David Reed’s website
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