'A tree, a wall, and a chair with a little water’: that is the American landscape architect Steve Martino’s minimum requirement for a garden. Not everyone would be so undemanding. But as Stephen Anderton notes in his engaging new book, Martino has an approach to garden-making rather different from that of many of his predecessors. His aim is to ‘make places where people want to live’. Over the centuries gardeners have had many other ideas, a fact that is splendidly obvious from a stroll through the forty lives described in this book. Spectacle, political statement, emotional release, technical achievement, self-serving display, homely exclusion: at one time or another all these motivations and more have inspired the green fingers and fertile minds of Anderton’s heroes.
Martino, it’s worth noting, is one of a number of gardeners covered here whose work is little known outside a particular region. I’ve been to the American Southwest; I know what a saguaro cactus looks like. But until now I hadn’t appreciated how certain thoroughly Southwestern elements (cacti