It begins with Hinkley's early years as a Michigan farmer's son who became interested in growing plants at a very young age. Mixed in with love of plants was a strong affection for words--firstly the exotic, tongue-twisting nomenclature of plants. Later comes education, travel, and work at various gardens, and brief references to the Heronswood experience.
photo from the book:
The book then focuses on the finding, buying, and labor of creating Windcliff. Before their purchase, the property was a vast lawn with a spectacular view of Tahoma (Mount Rainier). Hinkley and Jones turned their property into a cramscape of plants of all kinds, some failures, some successes. Jones remodels the home, Hinkley the garden. The spectacular view remains spectacular, but Hinkley believes it is the better for being framed, and sometimes partially upstaged, by plants. The benefit to wildlife is certainly greater--lawns are verdant wastelands. Failures (river otters ate the koi, free mulch is ugly mulch) are described with humor and in a way every experienced gardener can nod at and say "Yep, did that, too."
Hinkley's design rules are explained, though Hinkley insists he is first
and last a plantsman, not a designer. His essential garden elements are: texture/foliage, height
and movement, seasonality, fragrance, balance and repetition. The photographs illustrate these as each section of the garden and
classes of plants are described.
photo from the book:
The book concludes by coming full circle, with stories of joyful times with family and friends, some lost to death, all remembered and celebrated via plant treasures shared, or discovered with, or discovered by.
I enjoyed the book far more than
expected. Hinkley's day-to-day enjoyment and descriptions of
dirty-hands-muddy-knees gardening, of plants dying, or taking over, were
easily relatable and always interesting, even if the particular plants
were unfamiliar. I quite agree with his beliefs in the virtues of growing from 4" pots, vertical accents, and Agapanthus inapurtus ssp. pendulus 'Graskop', a plant I've swooned over and hope to find for my own garden. (Still haven't, sigh.). Hinkley's
affection for growing from seed is far beyond mine, but did inspire me to plant a few
recently. Merely sweet peas, but something. I did carefully eye a neighbor's Agapanthus 'Graskop' for seed pods...but no luck!
The writing style can be a tad distracting at times due to the author's relish for atypical words (cogitate, nimiety). However, that reflects the author's personality. He likes words. Deal with it. It may be a natural side-effect when botanical nomenclature like nussbaumerianum, scolopendrium,
or consanguineum polka through your mouth on a regular basis. (Bit of a logophile myself.)
The photos show sensitivity to the interaction betwen light and leaf. The professional photographer usually has the great advantage of photographing a garden during the "golden hour", that period time shortly after sunrise or before sunset, or the "magic hour", shortly before sunrise and shortly after sunset. Photos throughout the book are all the better for being taken at those times of day. As a mere blogging snapshot-taker, whose garden tours are often at mid day when the heat and sun are high, patience is low, the light blasts, and the shadows are as dark and nasty as tar, I am envious.
The physical book itself is of high quality, printed on substantial paper and with sturdy binding.
I recommend the book as the story of an adventurous, hardworking horticulturalist. Beautiful photos, plant-talk. The man's personality, sense of humor, and passion for plants shine through. Dirty fingernailed, muddy thumbs up.
I bought this book. It was not a freebie.)