Book Review – Garden Up!

Book Review – Garden Up!

A common mistake when designing a garden is to take a myopic view of the space to be affected, concentrate only on the surface beneath one’s feet, and not include the space around and overhead. It’s a mistake made by novice gardener and experienced designer alike, and is understandable. The novice (and we have all been one at one time) has not been trained to consider the three dimensions of a garden, and the designer begins by thinking of space in plan view (looking down from above) and will at times overlook the surroundings. Success in creating a garden that both welcomes the visitor and establishes sanctuary is achieved by developing all planes. “Garden Up! Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces” (by Susan Morrison and Rebecca Sweet, Cool Springs Press 2011) aims to correct this common oversight by providing example and inspiration for both novice and designer, and does so with great success.

Living walls, although popular for some time in Europe, are an exciting new trend here in the states, and I wondered if an entire book on the subject would keep my interest. To my delight “Garden Up!” does present a very interesting chapter on living walls, but presents them as one aspect of a greater theme, the vertical plane. Morrison and Sweet have divided vertical gardening into six different design applications, with chapters covering Arbors and Trellises, Skinny Spaces, Garden Secrets, Edibles, and Living Walls. Each discussion presents the reader with an overview, specific challenges, and a designer’s insight into solutions. As one might imagine, plants are a major part of each discussion. An additional chapter entitled Plant Picks, is cleverly divided to provide suggestions for each of the applications covered in previous chapters. The authors even give the reader their choice of a “Superstar Performer” plant for each category; a very nice touch, enabling even readers with the least knowledge of flora to succeed with their do-it-yourself projects. In the last section of “Garden Up!” we find a series of before and after shots called Design Spotlight. Here Morrison and Sweet have highlighted the transformation of five different gardens using the some of the techniques found in their book. Each example is notated so as to highlight the design solutions that have been applied. Showing before and after photos is an immeasurable way to illustrate a process, and including it “Garden Up!” is a wonderful way to summarize the information gleaned from the previous chapters.

Morrison and Sweet have included many photos of their work, and also from the many friends and contacts they have around the country, which wonderfully illustrate their thoughts. Their writing is concise and creative, and enthusiastically conveys the passion they feel for this subject. “Garden Up!” will provide beginners a wealth of inspiration, and seasoned designers new ideas and fresh perspectives on techniques that will enable them to create beautiful welcoming spaces. “Garden Up!” has earned itself a spot on the garden bookshelf, and will most assuredly influence the ongoing discussion of the vertical plane!



A digital copy of this book was supplied to me by the publisher for the purpose of review. I, however, went out and bought my own copy, so although I need not state the following, I will; All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are mine and remain my intellectual property until such a time that my home and garden are overrun by the surrounding wood, at which time the wood nymphs and gnomes may do with them what they please.

A word about book reviews on the Blue Heron Landscapes Blog:

Reviews posted here are intended for the inspiration, education, and enjoyment of the reader, and as such will not include negative reviews of any material. Reviews are not intended as critique of all published material, but rather to expose the reader to noteworthy tools that will help in the process of becoming better gardeners and designers, and to provide enjoyment on their garden journey.

8 thoughts on “Book Review – Garden Up!

  1. Scott – thank you so much for such a thorough and thoughtful review. You really did a great job summing up what our book is all about – not an easy task! Most people think ‘oh, you wrote a book about living walls!’ or ‘oh, a book about arbors!’, but it’s so much more. Thanks again! 🙂

  2. fantastic book review on Garden Up! a wonderful gift of garden inspiration for all gardeners. Authors Susan L Morrison and Rebecca Sweet artfully share page after page of beautiful garden pictures with descriptions that will surely have you looking at your garden space a bit differently. <|;-)

  3. Thanks for the objective review of this book. I’m pleased to see that the authors take the subject beyond the “living wall” concept. Something tells me I will be purchasing multiple copies to distribute to my do-it-yourself clients.

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