“Gardens can and should be a personal statement. Why would we want to have the same grinning garden gnome as our neighbor when there is so much that is unique to us? Does it make sense to duplicate that garden bauble that is so irresistible if it has nothing to do with our own personal experience and background? We need to get over our fear of doing something original because the design police might come after us. If we follow sound planning practices and tried-and-true design principles, we can be confident that what we create will work. Then give the raspberries to disapproving critics. Creating a garden brings a tremendous amount of satisfaction when it is not only full of a gratifying collection of plants but also enriched with our own philosophy and memories.”I also loved her keen attentiveness to design elements that most people miss. For example, human psychology. On page 59, she says:
“Well-thought-out spaces not only provide for essential physical elements but also consider the psychology of space. How comfortable would you be with your back to a door or gate? Physically the arrangement may work, but our basic human instinct is always to watch our back. It is much easier, and more comfortable for us, to glance up rather than turning around to see who is entering our space.”She also discusses the effects of color, like how we perceive color differently as we age, and how paint colors or different tones of lighting can affect how we experience a space. She gives a compelling grounding in the basics of color before moving on to discuss how to break the rules and have it work. Any well-read designer has seen a lot of info about color theory, but Nagel manages to bring fresh insights to the topic. Then, her discussion of plants, lighting and furnishings clearly show the design talent that has made her so successful. Nagel is not only a skilled designer, but she is thoughtful enough to be able to carefully analyze WHY she selects the materials, plants, and placement she does. Her explanations are clear and to-the-point, and the photographs clearly illustrate the design concepts she’s sharing. Bottom line – Understanding Garden Design is the type of design primer that any aspiring designer, whether professional or homeowner, will want to read thoroughly and understand before embarking on their first project. It’s a thorough, friendly book that will hopefully replace a lot of stuffy texts on the topic in college landscape design classes.