Julie Moir Messervy opens Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love by remarking,
Most of us feel less confident about creating outdoor living spaces than we do about our interiors. Inside, we happily paint walls, choose finishes, and buy rugs, furniture, and fixtures, but when we step outside we’re unsure of how to begin.
Maybe that’s why I always open a garden design book with a sense of trepidation. I am just as “unsure of how to begin” inside my house as out, and I don’t “happily” decorate anything.
And yet, I couldn’t resist the offer to review Home Outside, because I had read many of Messervy’s articles in Fine Gardening and always found them helpful. I particularly remember one on archetypal spaces in the April 2001 issue that really resonated with my own experience.
Natural Evolution in Messervy’s Thinking
I can see that Home Outside is a natural evolution from that eight year old article. Messervy continues to uses metaphors to help you grasp design principles. I especially appreciate how she likens movement through your landscape as a flow of water that pools in certain places and rushes through in others. Many design books encourage you to personalize your space, but Julie goes a step further, providing a brief quiz to help you analyze and categorize your preferences.
Another helpful method for organizing an outdoor landscape is her concept of Big Moves. Big Moves involve three components: a basic layout, an aesthetic arrangement, and a distinctive theme. Messervy is not a design snob. In her world there is room for the homeowner who craves an ocean of lawn and a sidewalk that leads straight to the front door (Exposed basic layout, All Lined Up aesthetic). To further bring home the point that there is no One Right Way to design a home landscape, she devotes a two-page spread to illustrate one rectangular plot of land designed six different ways, everything from The Orderly Garden to Party Central.
Little Tips as well as Big Ideas
In addition to providing strategies for thinking about your outdoor space and what you want from it, there are a lot of tips in the book that help you get the details right, from making sure your fence wraps around a corner, to laying down screening before you install the decking on an enclosed porch or gazebo that mosquitoes don’t fly up through the cracks in the flooring, to this:
For those of us who live in cold climates, choosing the right surface texture for a highly used path becomes critical when the snow flies. Make sure it passes the “shovel test” and is installed as continuous level surface uninterrupted by cracks, juts, or bumps.
If you’ve ever tried to shovel snow from a cracked and heaving sidewalk, you know how wise these words are.
Home Outside is the kind of book where you read for a little bit, and it gets you to thinking, and you wander outside, and squint at your problem area, and change position, and squint again. Then you go back inside and scribble something down, perhaps in your garden journal, perhaps in the margins of the book. It encourages daydreaming, productive daydreaming, the kind that helps you transform your yard from a cookie-cutter replica of the yard next door to a garden that satisfies you aesthetically and emotionally. Whether you plan to hire help or do it all yourself, this book will help you articulate what you want from your landscape and bring it to fruition.
Home Outside is one of the prizes being offered in our scavenger hunt Have you entered yet?
Two other garden bloggers published reviews of this book the day before I did. You might want to read them as well: