Paraphrasing author Bill Terry, a plantsman (“he…or she—the term is applied equally to women”) is knowledgeable, skilled in the crafts of propagation and cultivation, and possesses a fine aesthetic eye coupled with an adventuresome approach to new ideas.
Traveling with photographer Rosemary Bates, this journalistic team—husband and wife in “real life”—visit 11 Pacific Northwest gardens under the care of inspired artists and opinionated plantsmen. [Ed: correction, photos in the book are by Bill Terry; Bill and Rosemary collaborated on the text.] The result, Beauty by Design, Inspired Gardening in the Pacific Northwest, indeed provides both inspiration and consolation in equal measure.
Painters, poets, a potter, artists, and creatives from all walks of life are drawn to make gardens, bringing with them a fresh perspective and an indomitable spirit when it comes to executing their vision: a 2,000-square- foot Japanese rock garden replete with 20-foot conifers and giant boulders on a roof top—why not? On the other hand, just like the rest of us, they combat deer and other pests, water restrictions, and the sometimes tedious boredom of weeding. They grow food, trade cuttings with friends, and ponder seed packets.
I’ve always been a bit star-struck by the many horticultural heroes of my region. After reading Beauty by Design, I suggest adding generosity and humility to Terry’s list of attributes that I mention above. Yes, several referenced great historic gardens of the past; a design tradition that dates back generations. Robin Hopper coined the term “Anglo-Japanadian” reflecting his roots in England, the influence of a Japanese aesthetic, and the Canadian setting of his remarkable island garden. And his humor, I might add.
But nearly every gardener remarked on the fact that their landscape included the resident wildlife, birds, and soil microbes. Beauty and effect go far beyond flowers to include foliage and form, light and seasonal nuance.
Numerous photos complimenting lively garden descriptions throughout the text are in some cases, hampered by production quality. But I encourage the reader to look past a few muddy photos to what the authors and these inspired gardeners are trying to get us to do. Which is to really see.