Friday, February 22, 2013

Garden book review: Yard Art and Handmade Places

Today I am joining a garden book review meme hosted by Holly at Roses and Other Gardening Joys. I wrote a review for the first month of the meme, and have not participated since. There's really no excuse for this, as I love books, all sorts. This meme is made for me!

Several years ago, I received a gift book entitled Yard Art and Handmade Places, Extraordinary Expressions of Home, by Jill Nokes with Pat Jasper. Nokes is a family friend. Well, I don't actually know her, but other family members do. She is a landscape designer in Austin, and my brother-in-law, who is a landscape architect, worked with her for a while.

Each chapter features a different yard and gardener, from all over the great state of Texas. These gardeners use a wide variety of materials to make a personal statement in their yards. 

According to the book jacket:

"Yard Art and Handmade Places celebrates the fact that, despite the proliferation of look-alike suburbs, places still exist where people with ordinary means and skills are shaping space with their own hands to create a personal expression that can be enjoyed by all."

The gardeners use materials ranging from rocks to collections, statuary to junk. Some of the gardeners used plant choices to create an oasis. Other gardens celebrate a gardener's Mexican heritage or reflect the owner's religious beliefs. It's no slip of the pen when Nokes calls these gardeners "artists.'

One of my favorite chapters is about a gardener in San Antonio (pictured on the book's cover), Jesus Zertuche, who built a waterfall in his front yard from white limestone with black mortar, and decorated it with rocks collected over a lifetime working on a ranch in south Texas. He posed the animal-shaped rocks around the pond and waterfall. He also populated the urban property with trees and plants, to soften the hard edges of the limestone and provide shade on hot south Texas days.

Another chapter features Cleveland Turner's yard in the Third Ward of Houston. He has filled his yard to the brim with brightly colored found treasures and colorful flowers. From the book:  "Like many folk artists, Cleveland receives a lot of attention simply because his home and garden seem so wonderfully outrageous and free from convention."

I loved exploring these creative gardens; I often wish my garden was more whimsical, but it just may not be in my nature. 

The stories Nokes tells about the gardeners are fascinating, but I did wish for larger pictures, since I will most likely never see these gardens in person.

This book is pure fun. If you enjoy quirky yard art interwoven with beautiful and interesting plants, you might want to track down this book. To see more garden book reviews, click on this link.

Favorite spot in the garden:

Spring seems to be peeking out in my garden. I’m ready, how about you? The snowdrops (Leucojum aestivum) or snowflakes have begun blooming. I'd never noticed the tiny green spots at the base of each petal - very cool! Some of my snowdrops came from around an old house on property where my sister lived for awhile. My mother-in-law recently gave me more, from her grandmother's garden. Both of these were in southeast Texas, but they seem to be doing alright here in central Texas, too!


  1. What a fun book! I imagine this book would really get the creative juices flowing. Whimsical seems like an appropriate term for these gardens, and I imagine this would be a very enjoyable book to look at as well as to read. Thanks so much for joining in!

  2. Looks like an interesting read - I'm all for whimsy in the garden! :)