Naturalistic Planting Design: The Essential Guide

by Nigel Dunnett

A thoughtful and detailed exploration of some of the key concepts that have guided the author’s career in planting design.
Reviewer Rory Dusoir is a Kew-trained gardener and writer

The field of naturalistic planting design, inherently a somewhat paradoxical endeavour, is beset with bewildering quantities of technical information and competing theories. The paradox is that the more unstudied and ‘natural’ we wish a planting to appear, the more fiendishly cunning and convoluted are the contrivances required to plan it.


There can be no one better placed than the author of this book to offer a summary of current naturalistic approaches to working with plants – Nigel Dunnett has been an integral part of the recent reinvigoration of the field, which gathered pace in the 1990s and shows no sign of abating.

In such a complex area, the allure of adopting a dogma to simplify matters is strong. But Dunnett’s approach is refreshingly catholic and thoughtful. He identifies three main strands in contemporary naturalistic design, which he terms ‘impressionistic’, ‘modernistic’ and ‘technocratic’. In his design work he combines the best elements of all of these and because of this, the book offers both a broad summary of the current state of naturalistic design as well as a generous account of his own methods.

Dunnett trained as an ecologist and his insights are informed by a lifelong study of semi-wild plant communities. The book is generously illustrated by his own stunning photos, complemented by pictures of projects new and old that elucidate how his design principles have been put into practice.

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While not oversimplifying matters, this book makes an arcane and often misunderstood field of knowledge accessible to all and should be considered indispensable to anyone with an interest in current gardening trends.

Filbert Press, £35

ISBN 978-0993389269

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