Beautiful Garden Inspiration: Five of My Favorite Design Books

When I started looking for inspiration for our front yard, it was remarkable how many of my favorite gardens turned out to be designed by Judy Kameon and her firm, Elysian Landscapes. As soon as I realized this, I ordered her book, Gardens Are For Living, and I’ve been poring over it ever since—using it for plant lists to be cross-referenced with Sunset’s Western Garden Book, to be sure our picks will survive in our climate.

Looking at beautiful garden books can be a little tricky like that: it helps if you find titles written by people who work in your zone.

These are the five books I keep coming back to. I wonder what resources have been most useful (or aspirational) for you?

Gardens Are For Living:Design Inspiration for Outdoor Spaces, by Judy Kameon

Kameon’s commissions are mostly in Southern California—like the grounds of the Parker Palm Springs and the residence of Sofia Coppola—and feature a lot of low-water plants. I really appreciate how often she names the plants in the photos, and the attention she pays to the whole layout of a space. Her gardens are a lot like outdoor rooms.

Gardenista: The Definitive Guide to Stylish Outdoor Spaces, by Michelle Slatalla

The teams at the inspiring websites, and, make great books, too. There are case-studies (many of which are East Coast traditioanal, however), along with a wealth of design tips, resources, and the editors’ picks of 100 classic (and stylish) objects. I’ve dogeared many pages in this one.

Sunset Western Garden Book, by The Editors of Sunset

This is the ninth edition of what may be the most trusted resource for western gardeners, put out by the editors of Sunset magazine. Besides the A to Z Plant Encyclopedia and climate map, there’s a gallery with ideas: “from all-edibles front yards to stylish water-wise and fire-wise gardens to living walls and green roofs-all with ideas you can use,” and sections that help you choose plants for specific effects or purposes.

The Bold Dry Garden: Lessons from the Ruth Bancroft Garden, by Johanna Silver

If you’re anywhere near Walnut Creek, California, The Ruth Bancroft Garden is a wonderful stop. But even if you’re not, this book gives a history of the garden, and takes a look at the design principles and plants that make it unique. Right now, I find myself looking back at the profiles of signature plants for a waterwise garden. It also gives one a better sense of the patience a garden like this requires.

The Edible Front Yard, by Ivette Soler

This one is new to me, but I love the idea of a less typical vegetable garden—where edibles with curb appeal might combine with ornamentals for the most attractive appearance.

Do you have any favorite garden books or resources? 

P.S. Our backyard and our front yard. Also, the desert garden at the Huntington Library.

Related posts:

Travel Guides

Browse By Category