Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Looking for Spirit in the Landscape

I happened upon Dan Pearson's book Spirit: Garden Inspiration (2009, Fuel Design & Publishing) and couldn't resist bringing it home with me. Different looking than most garden design books, it is beautifully wrapped, very textural; the paper is warm and mat and it is full of intriguing photographs. It doesn't seem heavily edited or produced, but feels as if you've stumbled onto Dan's scrapbook or journal.



The book consists of 39 gardens, landscapes, sculptures and architecture that Mr. Pearson has found to be inspirational in his travels. Beginning with his childhood English landscapes, the book includes places from all over the world, from Japan to Joshua Tree National Park to the Villa d'Este. Each description of the locales is a gem, beautifully described and hauntingly photographed. I'm not sure if it was the intention of the creators of the book or not, but the mat paper seems to absorb the pigment differently than most books do. The images are darker and more murky, but it somehow suits the book. The photographs feel like memories, distant and not too real.

Bonnington Square

managed landscape

joshua tree

The way each section or description is complete unto itself, reminds me of a travel/garden blog that Mr. Pearson could've written - a wonderful blog I would visit religiously. In this case we are lucky enough to get to hold it in our hands and it feels even more precious because of that.

Wistman's Wood stone

This book has fast become one of my favorite garden books. I hope to have as many wonderful influences in my gardening life eventually. And I don't think it is necessarily a matter of getting to travel more, but more of a willingness to be present and let great spaces into your consciousness, whether it is a friend's backyard or a hike you take. That Spirit can be found wherever you are willing to look.

james turrell rocks

On a side note, I'm so excited to hear that Dan Pearson will be giving a lecture in San Francisco this February, hosted by The Garden Conservancy and the 2011 San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. Hopefully I'll see you there!


  1. I've skimmed through this book but had to grab it off the shelf after your review, opened it to Dan's piece on the Pantheon, and am now fired up for a thorough read. Thank you, Kelly! And also for the head's up on the speaking engagement. Might be worth a road trip.

  2. Denise - Let me know if you come to the lecture. It would be great to meet you!

  3. Something just got added to my list. Thankfully gift cards appeared under the tree.

  4. Love, love, love this book! Picked it up earlier this year. It too has become one of my favorites. Looking forward to the lecture.


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