by Sarah Howard

Publisher: Frances Lincoln (September 2009)
ISBN 978-0-7112-3025-5

Hardback £16.99

This elegantly produced book chronicles the changing landscape of Westonbirt Arboretum throughout the seasons by means of full-page colour photographs by Sarah Howard. The photographer first visited the arboretum as a child, but returning recently and seeing that landscape anew with her photographer’s eye decided to celebrate its beauty. The images she has created with the intention of capturing the essence of the arboretum the perfect close-up of a glossy pink magnolia or a line of trees in Lime Avenue crisply defined by their frosted branches are essentially her personal choice, ‘a show case of shining stars’, rather than a definitive record of all that is there.

Gail Mackenzie who writes the words has divided her text into four sections which accompany these sumptuous photographs and identify what can be seen during each of the seasons. What is especially interesting is her initial summary of the arboretum’s history. These 600 acres of Gloucestershire agricultural land were transformed into pleasure grounds 200 years ago by their wealthy owner Robert Holford, an avid plant collector who, influenced by the aesthetic principles of the picturesque style of gardening, created a landscape that is admired as much for its beauty as for its exotic collection of trees and shrubs, numbering at least 16,000 species.

This is a beautiful book which with its complementary words and outstanding photographs would enhance any coffee-table but it is also one that will give pleasure before or after a visit to Westonbirt.

Angela Stubbs