Phillip Johnson: book review - and DVD giveaways

Sometimes I wish I had used a proper, professional garden designer instead of the painful, stumbling process of learning as I go. If I did go the professional way, there would only be two possible candidates. As far as I know, there have only ever been two outstandingly creative, important, original, innovative, inspiring, thoughtful and ethical garden designers. One of them is Edna Walling, who died in 1973. The other is Phillip Johnson, whose stellar career culminated in winning the Chelsea Garden Show last year.

Philip's signature curved boardwalk slicing through the natural pool
(from the book)
 Edna Walling's influence stemmed from her writing as well her garden creations. In this new book, Connected: the Sustainable Landscapes of Phillip Johnson, the garden designer lays out the ideas, ideals and philosophy underpinning his garden design work.

Phillip's philosophy and aim is to connect with nature in a sustainable way. This means creating chemical free environments, sustainable water management practices and thriving habitats for indigenous plants and animals, thoughtfully connecting the landscape to the home.

He writes about his early influences - as a child digging in the dirt in his grandparent's garden, as a boy climbing rocks and hanging out in the Grampians, as an adult buying a bush block in Olinda and using it to develop his ideas. In Olinda, he created a natural swimming pool, complete with waterfall, all looking as natural as if it had always been there.

play of light and reflection in billabong
(from the book)
Phillip Johnson's gardens, like natural landscapes, are based around rocks and water. All his gardens contain billabongs - water features that are not filled from mains water and often don't even need a pump. They are filled by rainfall collected from the roof. Even if they dry out they are still beautiful features in the garden, as dry creek beds.

These gardens belong in a hot, dry climate, designed to conserve our precious water resources. They are meant for humans to live in, but they are also habitat for frogs, birds and all wildlife.

Ideas are one thing but putting them into practice is another. One of Phillip's ideals is to bring nature back to the city and suburbs. The book contains stunning photos to show what can be done in an ordinary suburban garden, and includes plant lists and plans to help as well.

the Chelsea Garden Show exhibit
(taken from the book)
Now to the giveaways ...  a documentary that follows the work of Phillip Johnson and his team around the winning exhibit at Chelsea. It took years of dedication and planning to transform a bare flat block in an urban park in London into a multi layered slice of the Australian bush. Apparently Her Majesty the Queen of England was particularly taken with the frogs, that in actuality were recorded sounds placed discreetly in the garden!

DVD front cover
If you would like to be in the draw for winning one of the 10 DVDs on offer, let me know either in comment to this post or via email.  Winners will be drawn on January 26th - Australia Day - and notified by email. Unfortunately the competition is only for people in Australia. Everyone who put up their hands for this will be notified of the result.

Connected: the sustainable landscapes of Phillip Johnson
Publisher: Murdoch Books
Photography by Claire Takacs
Publication: November 2014
RRP: $59.99 (Aus)

Comments

  1. Thank you Sue for putting this offer on you site. I would love to go in the draw for a chance of winning the Chelsea' Greatest Gardens video. Bill.

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  2. Sue what a great profile...he is a gardener after my own heart as I aspire to create what he talks about...

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    1. me too, Donna - I'd love a billabong in my garden with frogs... in my dreams I have it anyway ...

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  3. third time around, I am deliberately choosing plants to support our biodiversity.

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    1. Interesting, Diana, we've all shared a lot in our journeys together over the last few years. I haven't moved gardens, but changed this one so much, it feels like about it's the 6th incarnation, or 6th time around.

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  4. Those early influences are powerful, aren't they? Sounds like a great book!

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    1. It's a superb book, Beth, I totally recommend it.

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  5. I would love to be in the draw for the DVD and hopefully there will be some tips that will help with our slow stumble in transforming our garden :) Thanks!

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    1. You're in, Mrs B. I'm a slow stumbler too. I wonder if that's a necessary part of the process?

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  6. would love to go in the draw for the DVD...and yes I too stumble and create chaos in my attempts to get the garden I dream of....perhaps it will eventuate, perhaps not...but the things you learn on the way are so inspiring

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    1. Hi Vicki, it's a cliche, but it's the journey not the destination, isn't it?

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  7. Hi LInda, a bush block is a rural property that still has vegetation and hasn't been cleared. Your question reminds me that although we both speak English, there are lots of cultural differences between our 2 countries.

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    1. Catmint - It's the same with England. Thanks for giving me a definition.

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  8. Sorry I am not in Australia! But I agree with Phillip Johnson's philosophy. His gardens are wonderful. I wish you the best and happy gardening in 2015!

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  9. Sue, I love any gardener who celebrates and nurtures this unique landscape we've been given. It happens not enough that gardens made through empathy with it are acknowledged or are given significance. Do you know Gordon Ford, and his "successor" Sam Cox? They too make the garden in Australia real for me. Go Australian landscape, go, I reckon! PS Am reading Bill Gammage's The Biggest Estate on Earth, which you must read.

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    1. That book is now on my to read list, and having googled GF and SC, I agree, like PJ, they are also inspiring because of their empathy with our special and unique landscape.

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  10. I love Phillip's sustainable approach to gardening. Any garden designed by him would be a treasure. Don't include me in the give away. The postage to the States is too much!

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    1. Dear Tammy, It's a shame, though, the PR company organizing this hasn't got the budget for overseas postage. I would have loved to share this treasure with you and other cyberfriends outside Australia.

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  11. I love everything about his approach to landscape design. The gardens he creates are stunning. It still amazes me that we aren't more careful with our water consumption over here. Our dams are so low and much of our water supply is now from desalination plants. I would love to enter this competition if I can :)

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    1. You're in the competition Amy. What really gets to me is seeing people water things like Box that don't even need watering. Such a waste.

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    2. Sue, I'd love to be in the draw or the video, I really admire Phillip's garden designs. As is obvious to anyone looking at my garden, there is no plan. There was when I started but things fell by the wayside and so did I to a certain extent. However, it is still an integral part of my life and there is an image in my head that I think I'm working towards.

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    3. you're in, Carol. I don't do plans either - the garden evolves and changes all the time. It's exhausting at times, but also fascinating and satisfying.

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