The Layered Garden

DESIGN LESSONS for Year-Round Beauty from Brandywine Cottage

Reviewed by Lorraine Hunter

We all want a gorgeous, textured, colourful garden all year round — one in which the plantings are carefully orchestrated to provide a succession of eye-catching layers from early spring into late fall and early winter.

Using his own garden at Brandywine Cottage, renowned garden writer and lecturer David Culp has perfected this approach to planting and tells us exactly how to do the same thing in our own gardens. A woodland planting might begin with a rich tapestry of heirloom daffodils and hellebores, transition to a mix of ferns and native wildflowers and end the season with a jewel-like blend of shade-loving Asian perennials.

I was fortunate enough to visit David’s garden in Downingtown, PA, a few years ago and remember him saying that it took several years to achieve the effect he was striving for–a landscape that looked like everything had come up naturally on its own–exactly where he had placed it.

Stunningly illustrated by Rob Cardillo’s photography, the book explains in detail the layered look concept, design and maintenance.

The cottage is a simple farm house built in the 1790s. Possibly the most outstanding garden feature is a stone ruin – two remaining walls of a stable. What some homebuyers might have seen as an eyesore, Culp saw as a romantic backdrop that many gardeners would kill for. It sets the stage for what can be found throughout the garden–beautiful combinations of plants from all over the world.

This book offers design inspiration, plantsmanship and practical information. It is also a history of the author’s vision, his successes and failures, the everchanging nature of gardens plus detailed photos and descriptions of his favourite plants and why, as well as how to look after them. Full of personal anecdotes, this is a book for anyone who loves gardens and gardening from the complete novice to the more seasoned nature lover. The Layered Garden: DESIGN LESSONS for Year-Round Beauty from Brandywine Cottage, (Timber Press.)

Lorraine Hunter is a Master Gardener, writer and editor. She is the editor of the TBG’s Trellis Magazine.


Looking to purchase books on gardening? Visit our online Garden Shop for our curated selection.