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on June 10, 2008
this book is a cultural treasure, but then i am a long-time admirer of russell page, his sensitivity to site and his knowledge as a plantsman. while he tried to make good garden design accessible to more people conceptually, aesthetically, and financially, there remain some recommendations that are clearly out of reach of the ordinary person. however, his approach can be adapted to any any size of garden and any budget. recommended for its beautiful prose alone, i will read this book again and again for its depth of understanding of all aspects of garden design.
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on February 3, 2009
Page gives the reader strategies for learning plant names, remembering designs so you can recall them later, and gives a lot of opinions that ring true to me about style. A classic book, well written, and unlike anything I've read in a long time. More than instructional, inspirational. Sure to be a favorite. A gem.
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on December 8, 2007
There's been no better book written about the art of designing a beautiful landscape, IMO. While few of us can relate to mansions on the Riveria or expansive town gardens in Paris, the principles Mr. Page talks about are an accessible distillation of a lifetime of intense planting, looking and thinking. If nothing else, experiencing this rigorous and disciplined artist is an incredible inspiration.
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on January 24, 2014
"The Education" is an autobiography of a life spent designing gardens, mostly in Europe and England. Russell Page (1906-1985) is today regarded as one of the great landscape designers of the 20th century. Born in England, he designed small gardens in Paris, formal gardens for French chateaux and great English houses, and cliffs-edge gardens on the Mediterranean. His clients included kings, duchesses and barons, captains of industry, museums and public gardens. The book is a fascinating historical glimpse into a rarefied world that most of us will never otherwise encounter, and it is written with the wit and command of the English language displayed by the men and women educated before WWII at British public schools.

However, it is not a book from which the average person, who likes to plant a few flowers and veg on his little plot, will learn about "how to garden." Rather, it is advice about how to design landscapes for other people.

A major detraction is that the book contains only a very limited number of small, black and white photos of gardens that Page designed. Gardening is largely a visual art, and it was difficult to picture the gardens that Page lengthily tried to describe. Art books need reproductions of the art, not just verbal descriptions of it.

Also, I found it pretty hard-going to slog through paragraphs listing numerous Latin names of species that don’t grow in colder zones and that I therefore have no familiarity with.

But the major impediment to the book’s usefulness to ordinary gardeners is Page's ascetic restraint in use of materials. His mission was to decide the main feeling of a place (the genius loci), and remove nearly everything else. This required a strictly limited palette of plants and other materials. Grass, trees, hedges and perhaps a large formal pool were his usual materials. Restraint was his mantra.

Flowers, if permitted at all, were limited to a few formal beds or pots, or relegated to a far corner behind walls if the property owner unreasonably insisted on having more flowers.

Of course, this is completely out of keeping with what most recreational gardeners want in their gardens today: flowers, vegetables and a variety of other beautiful plants, although we do want an overall design to best display them. Certainly some of Page's advice is applicable for a gardeners looking for design advice: Paths should indeed always lead somewhere; gardens should mainly be approached from the house; massing and repetition of plants does give a striking effect.

But I'm not certain that Page's strongly held and somewhat snobbish opinions regarding what was artistically appropriate from 1930 to 1960 in wealthy people's formal gardens necessarily apply to the modern concept of gardens made by small-scale owner-gardeners. Reading the book might stoke ordinary gardeners’ anxieties about the "tastefulness" of their gardens (some might condescendingly quip that this wouldn’t be a bad thing, but I don't agree that inhibiting people from enjoying their gardens is beneficial).

The book will obviously be most useful for landscape designers and probably should be required reading for those in training to be such. It’s an important primary document for garden historians and would also be of interest to students of architectural history.

Despite my reservations about the book, I'm glad I read it; I learn something from reading any autobiography. But I don't think that it will change how I garden or how I look at gardens, as this classic book seems to have done for many readers before me.

(For a more detailed review with photos, please visit my blog at gardenfancy.blogspot.)
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on July 23, 2014
I went through a period when I read all the books having to do with Landscape gardening I could get my hands on. A local landscape architect recommended this one. It was the best, in the sense that I learned the most from it. Now I am ordering a copy to give to my young gardener, Zach, to read. It would be nice to have more photographs illustrating Page's work and its principles, but having the photos in black and white works fairly well, because Page's work was more about form, juxtaposition of masses, and composition than about color.
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on September 1, 2013
This reflection of Russell Page on his lifelong work as a gardener for himself and others is full of great information, principles on designing gardens, and tips for developing a garden that is right for the owner.
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on August 3, 2013
I've learned a lot from this book about why I like some gardens and not others, about what I've done right and wrong in my own gardens. His experiences are fascinating and on a large (and expensive) scale, but still there are little gems that apply across the board. He gardened for many years, mostly in England and Europe--the plants he could use do not always work in my climate, but still there are the principles. He's also an interesting person. I visited the Pepsico gardens, which he designed, now I would like to go back with a greater appreciation.
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on February 12, 2016
Very well written, a bit longwinded for the average garden lover, but there are very useful tips too. The last chapter, about his imaginery dream garden is quite delicious, makes wading through the book absolutely worthwhile
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on July 6, 2014
Serious advice for serious gardeners who have a fundamental understanding of plants, staging, the differences between American, British, French and Italian garden design. Pages projects are immense, but the principles apply to all good gardens of any size.

Page died in 1985. If you want to see his garden in color then buy Visions of Paradise. He is a consummate plantsman.

This book is no my bedside table and when I'm stumped on something, I pick up the book and work through it.

A treasure.
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on September 16, 2012
My introduction to Russell Page was in Michael Pollan's "Second Nature: A Gardener's Education," a book about gardening and grandparents applied to the philosophy of living. Pollan's praise of Russell Page stirred my curiosity, and since I couldn't get Page's book through my local library's state network, I ordered a copy from Amazon. And I haven't been disappointed. Page was a 20th century English genius who studied, designed and planted gardens around the world. His book describes his life as a garden creator, both in terms of sites and plants but also in terms of the mental process involved. As with Temple Grandin describing her mental processes involved in building stockyard facilities, the insight into mental genius provides inspiration for broadening my mind's problem-solving aptitude.
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