Book Review: The Jungle Garden

Philip Oostenbrink, Filbert Press, © 2021

As designers, my husband and I found The Jungle Garden to not only be a useful manual, but also an engaging story which walks you through a continuous exploration of lush landscapes. Overall, it was easy to navigate, with a graphic clarity that makes it enjoyable to flip through or dive deep into a chapter. I particularly appreciated the focus on designing with foliage, and learned several things along the way. For example, leafy plants are just as important as flowers, if not more so, in providing habitat to insects. The chapter on cultivation also provides expert maintenance information, and the appendix of 100 plants at the end was equally informative and useful.

A theme Oostenbrink visits throughout the book is how to achieve visual interest and enrichment in a jungle-inspired garden. Although not a new concept to my husband, who is a landscape designer, as an architect I often overlook the power of plants to create a sense of space and depth through the textures, shapes, heights, colors, movement and filtered light, which the author describes in detail. He offers simple tips to create an illusion of an endless jungle just beyond the path, and clearly explains how foliage can offer both a structure to your design, as well as colorful focal points in many seasons and climates. Although many photographs do not have a caption, I was intrigued by this choice of layout because it encourages the reader to explore rather than be tempted to skip around digesting only information from captions. This further reinforces Oostenbrink’s other themes of wandering and intrigue in the jungle garden.

I would recommend this book to designers, plant enthusiasts, gardeners, and even as an addition to the coffee table due to its bright colors and beautiful photography. Oostenbrink has inspired us to try out a few of these themes in our own garden. We look forward to picking up The Jungle Garden often, it will become as well-worn as our other garden tools.

Review by: Heather Evans (and Giovanni Rossato), 11/2021