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Understanding Garden Design: The Complete Handbook for Aspiring Designers

By Vanessa Gardner Nagel

An excellent guide for beginning home garden designers as well as students in the field.

Library Journal

Designing a garden is a complex task. Where do you start? What kind of skills do you need? What are the logical steps in creating a design? How do you communicate your ideas to a client, and how do you accommodate a client's requests while maintaining the integrity of the project? The answers to these questions, and many more, can all be found in Understanding Garden Design.

Most books on garden design focus on only one or a few aspects of garden design — choosing plants or creating a hardscape, for example. This comprehensive, accessible book lays out the entire process from start to finish in clear, precise language that avoids the pitfalls of "designspeak." In fact, garden owners and clients of garden designers who want to understand more about the designer’s craft will be able to profit from the book's lessons.

Among the many topics covered are how to document a site, how to determine what a client needs and wants from the garden, how to take architectural features into consideration, how to think about circulation and lay out paths, how to use basic design principles, how to work with plants, and how to create a final design. Practical aspects are clearly laid out, including working with contractors and staying on top of the various phases of construction.

This thorough handbook is profusely illustrated with helpful photographs and diagrams. A particularly interesting tool is the hypothetical garden plan that appears in each chapter to show how to apply the topics at hand.

A practical, logical approach to the planning, design, and installation of a garden, this volume will be an invaluable resource for students, landscape professionals, and garden designers.

Media reviews

"For aspiring designers, Nagel, a commercial interior designer who became a landscape designer, details the process of garden design. Using photos and diagrams, she explains aspects like documenting the site, lighting, working with contractors, components of a garden, irrigation, finishes and furnishings, plants, and basic design principles."

Book News

"Everything you need to consider is here."

Green Bay Press-Gazette

"A wonderful handbook for anyone to own."

Garden Design Online

"Thorough and thoroughly accessible, Nagel's reasoned yet personable approach to an often intimidating subject will benefit both homeowners and design professionals."

—Carol Haggas, Booklist

"An excellent guide for beginning home garden designers as well as students in the field."

Library Journal

"Details the process of garden design ... and basic design principles."

SciTech Book News

"Nagel has opened a window into the processes of our closest allies in our professional endeavors."

—Tom Williams, Williams Landscape Lighting Design

About the author

Vanessa Gardner Nagel

Vanessa Gardner Nagel designs gardens in the Pacific Northwest and writes and speaks nationwide about garden design. She worked as a commercial interior designer for 25 years with architectural firms in the San Francisco Bay Area and Portland, Oregon, before taking postgraduate coursework in landscape design. She started her own design firm in 2002. She is the author of Understanding Garden Design and currently serves on the national board of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers.

Read more about Vanessa Gardner Nagel

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