By Julie Moir Messervy (Taunton Press, 2009)
Like a lot of books on landscape design, Julie Moir Messervy’s Home Outside is filled with fabulous gardens, patios and yards. Unlike many design books, Messervy makes all that fabulousness seem attainable, even without a full-time gardener or a six-figure landscape budget. Home Outside is first and foremost a hands-on guide to creating a comfortable, personal and livable landscape, with the genial Messervy leading the way.
Messervy, who has been designing private and public gardens for many years, breaks the design process down to a set of six basic principles and steps: Knowing the lay of the land (the natural features of your house and garden); big moves (themes, statements, and over-arching ideas that control your design); comfort zones (places where the homeowner can relax, such as patios, seating areas and porches); flow (paths and steps); placing the pieces (ornaments, containers, and art); and, finally, sensory pleasures (color, texture and everything else plants provide.)
Throughout Home Outside, Messervy highlights how real homeowners have used these ideas to design their landscapes. While many of the sample landscapes look expensive, a few – including the last example that pulls all the book’s ideas together – seem plausible for homeowners with a modest budget, a few skills and a long-range vision. Beyond the book’s examples, it contains useful features for do-it-yourself landscapers, such as personality and style tests and illustrations of how one landscape could be designed using six styles.
I wrote about this when I first read the book in 2009, but I’m still enamored of Messervy’s concept of naming your landscape, and using that name to unearth your design style. Whether you are planning to tweak a landscape design you love or rip everything out and start over, Messervy’s book offers direction for your dreams. It may help you figure out what you really want, or just give you some new tools to realize your ideas.