SPIRIT: Garden Inspiration

by Dan Pearson
Foreword by Beth Chatto

Publisher: Fuel Design (distributed by Thames & Hudson)
ISBN 978-0955862083

Hardback £28

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The title of this book, Spirit, conveys what garden designer Dan Pearson has captured within its pages; its sub-title, Garden Inspiration, succinctly sums up its contents. Its 39 chapters range across countries, gardens, landscapes, buildings, sculptures and people that have inspired and influenced his way of looking at gardens and his work.

I’ll jump to the end, to Torrecchia, an estate south of Rome. Here Pearson helped to make a garden where ‘the plants are massed so that the pacing revolves around a series of events’. This book mirrors that pacing with a style that conveys the peacefulness and harmony with nature that Pearson brings to his gardens, TV programmes and columns in The Observer.

After ‘Beginnings’, the chapter titles may seem random, ‘Painshill Park’ (the subject of Pearson’s thesis before it was restored) followed by ‘Jerusalem’, ‘Wistman’s Wood’ on Dartmoor next to ‘New Zealand’, then the ‘Pantheon’; a chapter on graveyards and memorial grounds coming after ‘Richard Serra’s ‘Sidewinder’ ‘ sculpture. Yet they do link into each other and Pearson does tell us why they are important to him: ‘Trees’  ‘capture a mood and give a place identity’; the ‘dialogue between garden and landscape’ of ‘Rousham’; ‘the habitat is absolutely key to this house’, ‘Edwina’s Retreat’; ‘the silence and space [of Andalucia’s Cabo de Gata] . that allows you to tune into the detail .’

Unfortunately I only had a CD-ROM, rather than an actual book, to review and on the computer screen I couldn’t get the full effect of Pearson’s photographs which accompany the text on every page. With no index or gazetteer, it is a book to read and to look at; certainly one that we can learn from and which, in its turn, inspires.

Returning to ‘Torrecchia’, a further description by Pearson also represents the book: ‘at one moment all about restraint and nothing more than the shifting shadows on lawn and the next, a fecund, rustic romance.’

Shirley Barnes