The Less Is More Garden (★★★★★)


Susan Morrison   *   Timber Press   *   February 7, 2018   *   256 Pages

Find this book on Goodreads | Amazon | BN

As the title suggests, this book is focused on making the most of a small backyard space. It’s divided into eight sections and covers a good amount of information. Here is a breakdown of each chapter:

  • Chapter 1 — intent (what will you be doing in the garden? when will you be outside? who will be with you?)
  • Chapter 2 — design
  • Chapter 3 — guidelines for specific elements (like patios, decks, pathways, stairs, etc.)
  • Chapter 4 — how to make the most of a small space (through vertical gardening, diagonal gardening, lawn alternatives, focal points, etc.)
  • Chapter 5 — how to engage the senses
  • Chapter 6 — hardscape elements
  • Chapter 7 — low maintenance plants
  • Chapter 8 — how to give your garden a sense of space that connects it to whatever region you’re in

If you’ve read a lot of gardening books, much of this info will probably be familiar to you. But author Susan Morrison has a knack for delivering advice in a positive, creative, and engaging way. I found myself excited to change up certain elements of my garden and outdoor living space.

I was especially surprised to realize that I haven’t been utilizing our backyard in a way that lines up with our lifestyle. For example (and this is so embarrassingly obvious, but oh well), I watch my kids play outside basically all summer. I love to sit in the sun and relax, but our backyard chairs are uncomfortable and smushed in the corner. Why do I do that to myself? You better believe that, come spring, I’m going to move our comfy chairs out to help make our yard more functional and cozy.

I’ve also decided I’m going to plant something fragrant by our backyard window, so the scent will waft through the backyard and even into our living room, the most used room of our house.

Little details like that make a difference—sometimes even a really big difference. I loved the quote from Steve Aitken (editor for Fine Gardening magazine) in the preface:

When confronted with something that isn’t turning out the way we’d hoped, our impulse is to add something. [And when that doesn’t work,] we add something else. What we wind up with is something so full of competing flavors, colors, tchotchkes, or plants that we can’t even tell what the problem is anymore.

It’s true. We don’t need more stuff. We just need clarified and focused intent. An honest look at our own needs coupled with a simple but clear plan can help turn a dysfunctional space (whether sparse and cold or chaotic and overgrown) into a comforting oasis. I love that.

Advanced Reader Copy provided through Net Galley…but then I bought the book anyway.

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