The Master Gardener Bookshelf: New Landscape Ideas that Work

New Landscaping Ideas That Work by Julie Moir Messervy

By Susan Wilhelm, Extension Master Gardener

Book cover of New Landscaping Ideas that workLandscape improvements can add value to a home, provide relaxing outdoor spaces, and maximize living space by extending it outdoors. But how does one decide what to do? New Landscaping Ideas that Work by landscape architect Julie Moir Messervy answers that question by breaking the design process into parts and showing how each part contributes to a landscape that meets a homeowner’s specific needs and goals.

New Landscaping Ideas that Work is aimed at the homeowner seeking to create a landscape design without consulting a landscape design professional. It starts by identify key questions which will inform the design. These include site conditions such as whether the property is flat or sloped and, if sloped, the direction of the slope; the amount of sun, shade, or wind the site receives; the style of house (modern, traditional, cottage); and the homeowner’s own preferences. Consistent with Extension Master Gardener Best Practices, Messervy recommends getting soil tests, which are critical to selecting plant materials most likely to grow on the site. Chapter 2 discusses ways to think about space in a landscape and how spaces might be used, such as gathering or play spaces.

Subsequent chapters address different landscape design elements:  open-air rooms (porches, decks, lawns); walls, fences and hedges; paths and walkways; plantings; and details such as focal points, fire and water, furniture, and lighting. Each chapter is laid out in a similar format with an introductory text and color photographs of various approaches to that design element. For example, an explanation of how edging provides definition in a landscape is accompanied by photographs of settings with steel, stone, and wood edging. There are also sample landscapes illustrating one or more design element, often with a landscape site plan.  (One is in Fall Church, Virginia.)  Where applicable, “essential” materials for building the design element are identified with detailed photographs and, in some cases, cost implications. For instance, six different materials are featured for creating paths ranging from bark mulch and pea stone (less expensive) to concrete and cut stone slabs (more expensive).

New Landscaping Ideas that Work is a second edition of an earlier publication by Messervy, Landscaping Ideas that Work (2014).  It is full of practical information, fun to read, and the photographs are stunning. While a reader will likely need to consult additional resources to finalize a landscape design, especially as it relates to plant selection and maintenance, it’s an inspiring place to start.

New Landscaping Ideas that Work (The Taunton Press, 2018) is available at the Arlington Public Library and from national book sellers.

Photos from Julie Moire Messervy Design Studio

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