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Review
Book Shorts

A picture book of avant-garde gardens and gardening

Not a guide nor a history, but a collection of unusual gardens and their makers

Rental Decadence Courtesy of Thames & Hudson. ©Daniel Shipp (photography) 2018

The frontispiece of this book is a single white page with the full-caps imperative, GRAB YOUR SECATEURS. This is an apposite command as there is much that could be cut from the book, not least the next 11 literally purple pages of screamers shouting jaw-droppingly vacuous clichés ("Beauty is everywhere", "Everything is connected", "We are nature", "Everything dies") accompanied by a midrash of equal inanity. If the reader has not yet been taken ill, he or she will next find some 250 pages of Daniel Shipp's often well chosen photographs along with lots of text designed for the hard-of-seeing (lots and lots of white on the page and VERY BIG FONTS) set in eye-aching sans serif type. Georgina Reid, "an intrepid hunter of stories, plants and ideas", shows us the gardens of 24 obviously wealthy, but nevertheless "interesting and passionate people" in Australia, New Zealand and the US (get the drift?) who have found "truth, beauty, purpose and connection" when making their gardens, not much in evidence in this anonymous example in the chapter, Rental Decadence. Anyone who can take large drafts of hyperbole along with lashings of banality deserves a reward from the Royal Horticultural Society.

  • Georgina Reid and Daniel Shipp, The Planthunter: Truth, Beauty, Chaos and Plants, Thames & Hudson, 256pp, £28 (hb)