Two years ago, desperately trying to find gardening and design books to address the sheer scale of the farm property, I ran across Joe Eck's book, Elements of Garden Design. Mr. Eck certainly knows his stuff as one of the co-owners of the famous Vermont garden, North Hill. In fact, I have owned a copy of his other book, A Year at North Hill, co-written with Wayne Winteroud, for many years.
While the book certainly would be valuable for most novice gardeners working out their first design schemes, it wasn't exactly what I was looking for. I agreed with much of what he has put forth in the book, which is really more of a series of essays. The essays originally appeared as a series of articles in Horticulture magazine.
However, I strongly disagreed with his overbearing tone. I know, I know, this is what one expects when asking someone else's advice on the principles of design. Some of it is just going to be subjective. But he had a lot of rules. Hmph. If you know me, you know I don't like rules, don't like them one bit. So, this clearly wasn't the book for me.
I actually found what I was looking for in a contemporary landscape design book, a gardening book written in the 1800's by William Robinson, the writings of Alexander Pope, and the work of England's great Capability Brown. What I discovered was there is a difference between design edicts to be slavishly followed and design principles, which are applied. Therein lies the difference between good design and great design.
I see now the paths of Alexander Pope and William Robinson and Capability Brown are the ones to follow.
Alexander Pope's principle of Genius Loci:
"Consult the genius of the place in all;
That tells the waters or to rise, or fall;
Or helps th' ambitious hill the heav'ns to scale,
Or scoops in circling theatres the vale;
Calls in the country, catches opening glades,
Joins willing woods, and varies shades from shades,
Now breaks, or now directs, th' intending lines;
Paints as you plant, and, as you work, designs. "
We shall find the spirit of this place, too, I am sure.