Book review: Botany for Designers

Botany for Designers – a practical guide for Landscape Architects and other Professionals – Kimberley Duffy Turner – W.W.Norton & Company



On hearing the title of this book I could not help but smile: what a good idea! The author is schooled in both horticulture and landscape architecture, runs a practice and teaches in Boston, making her admirably qualified in both fields. But while some books of this sort talk down to readers, Kimberley Duffy Turner recognises that her audience is made up of busy design professionals. She passes on her plant knowledge in a sympathetic and non-patronising way, continually referring back to normal landscape procedures to emphasise its relevance to the everyday work of design practitioners. She has managed to present a complex subject, avoiding all the obvious pitfalls, to readers who might otherwise find it unattractive.

Kimberley explains her rationale clearly: planting and botany are often only a small part of the training received by garden designers and landscape architects and in architectural curriculums the issue may be non-existent. Those who need to provide drawings and specifications for public or private landscapes may be well versed in design and hard landscaping techniques, but lacking this essential knowledge. This book attempts to fill this gap, providing a primer in botany and plantsmanship.

The book covers a variety of topics in plant science with detailed explanations of how these topics relate to design. This approach provides direct links between botany and design and quick references to apply these issues to daily practise. Designers should come to grips with plant classification and nomenclature and those with a limited knowledge of plants are encouraged to go further, seeking out new cultivars to expand their palette. Plant functions and structure are discussed and the significance to the plant specifier explained alongside the science. The visual and spatial characteristics of plants are important in design but also have botanical functions.

Colour theory takes us into the realm of pure plantsmanship, alongside the use of plants as design elements or inspiration for design. Plant production, specification and appropriate plant selection are all fundamental to the success of the final scheme and an overview of these subjects is presented to readers. A final chapter deals with green issues and other aspects of modern planting design, giving plenty of food for thought and independent enquiry.

At the Garden Design Academy we have long believed in the value of Plantsmanship and offer a comprehensive Certificate course in the subject. This book can be recommended to students and established designers who might need to expand their understanding of botany or brush up on concepts half-learned at an earlier stage in their careers. It is available from the Garden Design Academy bookshop:






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