This is a long overdue book review. So tardy, but that's not a reflection of the book's content in any way! Heaven is a Garden is a design guide by Jan Johnsen (2014, St. Lynn's Press) whose tagline is "Designing Serene Outdoor Spaces for Inspiration and Reflection". Not being an overly spiritual person I was a bit put off by the title, but I'm all about "serene outdoor spaces" so I accepted a review copy from Jan.
My first act when getting a new gardening book is to quickly thumb through to get a feel for the content, a quick preview. Heaven is a Garden has everything to get me excited: rocks, trees, water, and enough photos to satisfy visually.
This is quite an accessible book, coming in at 144 pages. That may seem light if you're used to much bigger gardening guides, but I actually appreciated this work's focus. Rather than going off into every detail of design or gardening -- things I already know or have access to in a dozen other books -- it stays to its theme of helping the reader understand and create serene garden spaces.
Jan's intro explains what each of the six chapters covers, so rather than try to rephrase I'll use her own words.
- The Power of Place considers the ways terrain can be molded and accented to create sanctuary and meaning.
- Creating Music for the Eye shows how shape, line and proportion can unify a garden.
- Calling on the Trees addresses the enlivening influence of our arboreal friends by deciphering the language of the trees.
- The Magic of Water delves into water's mystery and the many ways it enhances an outdoor environment.
- A Rock's Resonance explores the powerfully evocative qualities of stone.
- Color - Nature's Catalyst reveals the therapeutic effects of color and light in a garden design.
- Apple - Protection, facilitates good will, promotes harmony;
- Aspen - Protection, helps to calm, overcomes fear of unknown;
- Beech - Prosperity, tree of learning, promotes tolerance and inner strength. Etc.
West is the direction of the setting sun and is associated with the end of the day and fellowship. High-canopied trees that lightly shade the west side of a house create the sweetest place to linger at the end of the day. In Vastu, the west is where "name and fame are made" - in other words, where we share time with friends. A "sunset terrace" basking in the long orange-red rays of the setting sun is the best place for socializing.