Under Western Skies

“[M]ost gardens are a three-part alchemy between the riches and constraints of the natural and/or cultural history of the place, the individual creativity and personality of the gardener, and the gardening culture in which both the garden and the gardener exist.”

preface to Under Western Skies
Under Western Skies - Cover

I’ve been taking small sips of this delicious new book by Jennifer Jewel and photographer Caitlin Atkinson, rich in both words and images. So often I become fixated on what the West lacks — abundant rainfall, for instance. Under Western Skies‘ emphasis on the West’s natural beauty and the rare opportunities it affords to make unique gardens here has refreshed my appreciation for my home. This book shows that the only lack one must be wary of in making a garden in the West is imagination.

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the Reids’ garden at Hog Hill, Sebastopol, Calif., photo by Caitlin Atkinson
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Rancho Arroyo, Phoenix, Arizona, photo by Caitlin Atkinson
Nature Garden by Mia Lehrer, Natural History Museum, Los Angeles, Calif., photo by Caitlin Atkinson
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the Taft Gardens and Nature Preserve, Ojai, Calif., photo by Caitlin Atkinson
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Marwin Gardens, Watsonville, Calif., photo by Caitlin Atkinson
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David Godshall’s Edendale Garden, Echo Park, Calif., photo by Caitlin Atkinson
Bernard Trainor’s garden, Carmel-By-The-Sea, photo by Caitlin Atkinson
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Academy for the Love of Learning, New Mexico, photo by Caitlin Atkinson
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Harborton Hill, Portland, Oregon, photo by Caitlin Atkinson

Rarely do garden images and words complement each other as effectively as they do here; the collaborative synergy between writer and photographer comes through page after page. This over 400-page book is filled with unforgettable images of brilliant planting, such as cactus spires rising up from a froth of flowering buckwheat. And the detailed discussions of both the people and plants provide insight into the process of making a garden that can be universally applied, whatever sky you’re under. In books and magazines the West is often celebrated for the outdoor culture it has pioneered and exported, its patios and swimming pools, not its Coast Live Oaks, saguaros, Joshua trees and manzanitas. This plant-driven, deeply felt love letter to Western landscapes and gardens restores plants as central to the idea of a garden in the West, and for that alone it is to be cherished. It is highly recommended as a book to to be placed within easy access on your bookshelf, to be referred to over and over again when making a garden that attempts to honestly engage with your own unique land and sky.

(My copy of Under Western Skies was kindly provided by Timber Press for review.)

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8 Responses to Under Western Skies

  1. Gerhard Bock says:

    I have gotten started on my copy yet but now I can’t wait. What a flowering review!

  2. Denise says:

    Gerhard, I’m looking forward to discussing it with you!

  3. Kris P says:

    I’ve just skimmed it this far. I’ve got to sit down and give it some quality time but I already love the prose and the photos.

  4. Elaine says:

    I think if I ever write a book you would be the person I would choose to write the forward. Your descriptive prose encouraged me to order this book even though it’s definitely not in my zone. I think we always wish for the ‘grass is greener’ gardening climate but every area has it’s struggles making yours not so bad in comparison.

  5. Denise says:

    @Kris, I was so surprised by the selection of gardens, many very familiar…
    @Elaine, that is so kind of you to say! And so true about gardens and struggle, because they are all about wish fulfillment!

  6. My copy is just inches away from me right this very minute. I’ve been trying to get a review written, but fear of not doing the beautiful book, it’s authors and gardeners, justice has me frozen in fear.

  7. Lori says:

    I am slowly reading my copy as well, and concur. One thing that I love is that every garden includes the elevation info– so important and so often overlooked!

  8. Denise says:

    @dg, I couldn’t give it the in-depth review it deserved — it would have taken months! Hence, just brief words of praise.
    @Lori, you’re right, that is such important information to make sense of the planting.

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