Book Review – Cultivating Garden Style

Cultivating Garden Style-Book Review

Cultivating Garden Style:
Inspired ideas and practical advice to unleash your garden personality

By Rochelle Greayer
Timber Press, 2014
Hard Cover 323 pages
$49.06 USD

If you’re a DIY gardener who wants to design her garden herself, either due to a lack of funds to pay a professional or a desire for a more personalized look, you may have noticed that some books on garden design are loaded with pretty pictures but are less forthcoming with the details of how to achieve the look. Some books are limited in their view of what that look should be and tell you how to get a “packaged” look with the expectation that you’ll be happy re-creating a certain garden look item by item and plant by plant. That’s not an approach that would make me happy.

That’s why I was so pleased to find Rochelle Greayer’s book, Cultivating Garden Style. It not only offers up an array of 23 different garden styles, but it breaks each style down into its various elements and suggests ways to personalize the look. Choose a style (or blend of styles) that suits you and you’ll find plenty of inspiration and ideas for creating that look in your own garden, element by element, with plenty of room for personalization.

Style That Is Cultivated, Not Mimicked

Cultivating Garden Style-Book ReviewGreayer devotes a heavily illustrated chapter to each style, taking the reader through the process of building a garden design layer by layer.

The “Big Ideas” pages help you to understand the central concepts that build each look. Then the “Make It Your Own” pages break it down further to various products (furniture, lighting, ornaments, etc.) that fit the style. The “Putting Down Roots” pages guide you to the plant selections that are appropriate for each type of garden. Then a real-life example of each garden style is presented in the “Garden Story” pages. And each chapter is followed by practical advice and tutorials on topics such as buying plants online, hanging a tree swing, or making a concrete container.

The range of garden styles covered is vast, endlessly adaptable, and goes well beyond what you might typically find in garden magazines and websites. Styles include Hollywood Froufrou, Bucolic Zen, Sophisticated Taj, Scandinavian Wild, as well as more familiar looks like Cottage Au Courant and Pretty Potager.

Making It Mine

As an example, I’ve long wanted to redo my back yard in a Mexican garden style with touches of Old California, so I wanted to see how I could use Greayer’s book to create that look.

The Xeric Hacienda style was pretty close to what I was going for, a look Greayer describes with terms like “painted,” “desert,” “traditions,” “vibrant,” and (my favorite) “sizzle.”

The Big Ideas for this look include mix & match texture, hefty doors, handcrafted elements, family altars, and water features.

The products suggestions include some I’d already considered like terra-cotta, wrought iron, and Mexican tile, but others I hadn’t thought of, such as Mexican oilcloth fabric and a string hammock.

The “Putting Down Roots” pages suggested the expected succulents and natives, but also recommended including silver-leaved plants and architectural plants (plants with distinctive structures). It also covered some basics of xeriscaping.

Finally, the “Garden Story” featured a Spanish revival garden in Laguna Hills, California, that was inspired by the Barrio Viejo neighborhood in Tucson, Arizona. Highlights included a variety of desert plants, a tiered fountain, and rustic metal artwork. All together, the Xeric Hacienda chapter gave me several fresh ideas to incorporate into my garden.


5 Shovels Rating from Gardening Products ReviewThe beauty of Greayer’s process is that by breaking each style down to its essential elements, including plant recommendations, she guides you through building a garden style layer by layer in an authentic and customized way. Design choices become simplified without making it a cookie-cutter approach to landscaping. The number and variety of photos is essential in conveying the wide range of options available for each style. The short articles and DIY tutorials are informative and creative, bringing the hands-on approach to garden design even more within reach for the non-professional. The flexibility of Greayer’s approach and her less-dogma-more-possibilities view of creating gardens makes this book seriously inspiring, as well as liberating and empowering.

Where to Buy

This book is available on as well as through select bookstores.

See Our Other 2015 Book Reviews

  • Essential Perennials: The Complete Reference to 2700 Perennials for the Home Garden by Ruth Rogers Clausen and Thomas Christopher
  • The Nonstop Color Garden: Design Flowering Landscapes & Gardens for Year-round Enjoyment by Nellie Neal
  • Grow a Little Fruit Tree: Simple Pruning Techniques for Small-Space, Easy-Harvest Fruit Trees by Ann Ralph
  • The Right-Size Flower Garden: Simplify Your Outdoor Space with Smart Design Solutions and Plant Choices by Kerry Ann Mendez
  • The Allergy-Fighting Garden by Thomas Leo Ogren
  • How to Mulch: Save Water, Feed the Soil, and Suppress Weeds by Stu Campbell & Jennifer Kujawski
  • Foodscaping: Practical and Innovative Ways to Create an Edible Landscape by Charlie Nardozzi
  • Building Soil: A Down-to-Earth Approach: Natural Solutions for Better Gardens and Yards by Elizabeth Murphy

Disclaimer– GPReview would like to thank Timber Press for giving us a free book to review. There was no expectation that it would be a positive review and we received no compensation for writing it. All opinions expressed here are those of the author based on personal experience using the product.

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