Q&A with Lorraine Harrison, author of “How to Read Gardens”

By Shelley Pierce | June 23, 2019
by Shelley Pierce
June 23, 2019

Lorraine Harrison has a master’s degree in Garden History from the University of London and has written several books on the subject. When not tending her own plot, she enjoys other people’s gardens whether, large, small, grand or humble. In her latest book, “How to Read Gardens“, Harrison offers the knowledge you need to unravel the complete story of a garden’s past. Read on to learn more and enter below to win one of three copies from Quarto Publishing Group!

1. How did you develop your keen eye for gardens?

I’ve always loved visiting gardens, be they grand public spaces or friends’ more modest patches. Several years ago I did a Master’s Degree in Garden History and that both increased my enjoyment and my critical eye.

2. How does this book enliven, inform,  and increase the pleasure gained from garden visits?

I think it helps people gain that more critical eye. And of course knowing more about a subject always deepens your appreciation and pleasure.

3. Why is it important for us to know how to read gardens versus being a passive observer who just wants to “see the pretty”?

A reoccurring theme of the book is the meaning that lies behind many of features found in gardens. Few people may consider politics, history or mythology when they look at a garden yet garden buildings, sculptures and boundaries, for instance, can all be used to convey wider cultural ideas.

4. What inspired you to write this book?

I thought a compact and easily transportable volume like this would be a really useful companion to take on garden visits.

5. A lot of gardens around the world are featured in this book.  Was this book a culmination of a long journey visiting gardens around the world?  

Afraid not! It was written at great speed at my desk.

6. Tell us about your garden.  What historical influences and styles discussed in your book have you incorporated into your personal gardens?

I am just in the process of developing a new garden, more or less from scratch. So far new additions include a water rill, a greenhouse and an orchard underplanted with spring bulbs, including snowdrops, crocus and primroses. The most ambitious structure is a long archway against which I’ve planted six Wisteria Macrobotrys although I fear I’ll need to be patient and wait some years for them to flower!

Enter to win one of three copies of How To Read Gardens!


To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight (EST) on Sunday, June 30, 2019 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

What would you like to learn about a garden?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)

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