Read This: The Garden Refresh

June 22, 2022

Solstice, smolstice. Summer arrived in Texas back in early May, with a vengeance. We’ve had 16 triple-digit days already (unseasonably early) and little rain. For many avid gardeners this means sweaty mornings or mosquitoey evenings standing hose-in-hand over young plants stuffed willy-nilly into the garden during the soft days of spring, contemplating an increasingly crispy landscape.

Or is that just me?

Rows of grasses and salvia hold a steep slope. Photo: Kier Holmes

At any rate, it’s time to retreat indoors with a cold beverage and peruse gardening books until October. One I recently finished is The Garden Refresh: How to Give Your Yard Big Impact on a Small Budget by Kier Holmes. A San Francisco garden designer and freelance writer, Holmes characterizes herself as the child of creative and resourceful hippie parents, who taught her the values of being adventurous, using what you have on hand, and making ecologically responsible choices. As someone who makes gardens for a living, she acknowledges that they can be “sanctuaries where we can escape from strange stresses and uncertain times,” but also that “taking care of a garden can be utterly stressful too, even exhausting, frustrating, and completely baffling. Yet, when we get it right, it is deeply satisfying.”

So true. And of course a garden is never done. A garden is always about the process.

Lavender brings in the bees. Photo: Emily Murphy

The Garden Refresh aims to help “beginners and veterans alike” by sharing handy gardening tips and creative ideas illustrated with photos from gardens Holmes and other designers have made. I found the tips to be most useful for beginning gardeners, who will appreciate suggestions for assessing one’s space, deciding on hardscaping, choosing plants and planting them, watering set-ups, and other general gardening info. Holmes’s encouraging tone and plentiful photos make this a good book for new gardeners or any homeowner looking to create something prettier and more enticing for humans and wildlife than lawn and a line of shrubs along the foundation.

A path through raised beds leads to an inviting patio. Photo: Emily Murphy

More-experienced gardeners will most appreciate the more creative tips illustrated with photos, such as making a fence from salvaged planks, turning cast-off objects into sculptural elements, and planting up found objects. I especially enjoyed the wide shots of well-designed and beautifully planted gardens, several of which I intend to bookmark for future reference. One such is on page 102, an Austin or San Antonio garden by the look of it, rich with green texture and bold foliage, with chunky pale limestone and slim rusty corten knitting it all together.

An exuberant flower-lover’s garden. Photo: Kier Holmes

And then there are charming home-grown scenes like the one above, with cottage flowers and vines climbing trellises and a hummingbird feeder to attract zip-zipping birds. Holmes provides a nice balance of higher-end gardens and homemade gardens throughout.

One quibble about the book’s subtitle: it promises “big impact on a small budget,” but costs and budgets aren’t discussed, and the most striking gardens pictured are the ones with designer hardscaping (paths, retaining walls, raised beds). That aside, the book is sure to be a helpful resource for anyone wanting to learn basics about gardening and design, with many beautiful photos to inspire and the author’s friendly voice providing plenty of encouragement.

Disclosure: Photographs courtesy of Timber Press. Timber Press sent me a copy of The Garden Refresh for review. I reviewed it at my own discretion and without any compensation. This post, as with everything at Digging, is my own personal opinion.

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All material © 2022 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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