Brilliant and Wild – Book Review

‘Brilliant and Wild – a Garden from Scratch in a Year‘ by Lucy Bellamy, is not a quick-fix guide to instant gratification – it is, as the author describes in the Introduction, something different.

Lucy provides clear step-by-step instructions for making a low-maintenance garden that will flourish within months and be fully established within a year. She places her focus on perennial plants that are easy to grow, loved by wildlife and look more beautiful year on year.

No matter whether you have a sad lawn or a rickety fence, an unruly hedge or a brand-new plot, ‘Brilliant and Wild‘ explores how you can approach the garden in a year with less watering, less weeding and so less work. The garden plants are the heroes and the author points out how you can use the wild characteristics of the plants themselves, with clumping, shooting and structural resilience, as the backbone to your garden space.

The main ethos of the book is simple – you shouldn’t have to spend every weekend maintaining a garden or worry about who will water it when you are away. For the time pressed this is an important aspect of gardening as we all lead ever busier lifestyles and so the author shows us how to choose flowers that knit together and how to work with the way plants want to grow – the heart of a brilliant and wild garden.

With umbrels, spires and bright button-like dots, new perennial planting is perfect for the beginner gardener or indeed an experienced gardener who may want to make their gardens less work intensive.

She urges us to forget traditional ideas about what a garden is like – narrow borders dotted with plants at the edges of a lawn – and take our cue from the natural landscape. Wilder planting needs a strong design and where you place your plants is key to making a brilliant space.

Putting plants close to the house and across the garden, rather than at the sides, means you see your flowers every time you go outside and from more aspects within the home. Indeed, the author points out that when you settled on a planting area, it is useful to go into the house and look at it through the windows as the perspective will quickly tell you if the area you’ve allocated needs to be wider, bigger or in a slightly different spot.

Chapters include From scratch in a year; The Plants; Planting; Wildlife; Caring for your garden and Beyond the Year. There is also a useful Flower Calendar at the back of the book and a chart with Plant heights, something I found very useful as this is one area of my own gardening I have often neglected to my cost.

The book is full of useful information written in a clear and interesting style with excellent photography by Jason Ingram who perfectly captures the stars themselves – the plants. Many plants are photographed in close-up, particularly helpful if the reader is unfamiliar with a particular plant or uncertain about how it will look in their planting scheme.

There is a set of clear planting plans so you can use these as a starting point or for inspiration.

The section on The Plants, is divided into Umbellifers, Spikes, Dots, Flatheads, Grasses and Bulbs, corms and tubers. Each plant description has essential information including wildlife benefits, the best cultivars and size. Both the botanical name and the common name are also given.

Lucy Bellamy re-trained in horticulture while working as a primary school teacher. She studied with the Royal Horticultural Society and at Chelsea Physic Garden and writes widely in the national press. She is editor of Gardens Illustrated magazine. This is Lucy’s first book and I feel it will sit well with other horticultural publications as a book with a refreshing look at perennial planting and as a valuable point of reference and motivation for even the most inexperienced gardener.

Jason Ingram is a celebrated photographer of gardens, plants, food and people. He works with top international garden designer Dan Pearson on private projects. He won the Garden Media Guild Photographer of the Year Award in 2013 and 2014. He was Features Photographer of the Year in 2016.

Brilliant and Wild – A Garden from Scratch in a Year‘ by Lucy Bellamy with photography by Jason Ingram is published by Pimpernel Press Ltd – www.pimpernelpress.com – in hardback at £20.

Review copy kindly supplied by the publisher.

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