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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  • George Willson
    Comment added July 4, 2019Reply

    I’m really looking forward to gaining insight into the rationale behind the design of various gardens! The knowledge will add significantly to the pleasure that each one tries to impart.

  • Linda Roman
    Comment added June 26, 2019Reply

    I love gardening.Why can't we just fill in the competition.

  • Lae Morae
    Comment added June 26, 2019Reply

    I would love to learn as much as I can, from why they made the choices they did to what those choices mean and what the influence behind them was.

  • arnold p. hijner
    Comment added June 26, 2019Reply

    as an ex-nurseryman and now chairman of our local garden club I have always been teaching others how to garden, but now my interest is discovering the relationship between the garden and the gardener. so my quest is to learn how a garden affects its owner.

  • Doris Lewis
    Comment added June 26, 2019Reply

    How do you fight the humidity that is so bad in south Florida ? Are the yellow leaves too much water or not enough water ? Thanks Doris

    • Cheryl Reese
      Comment added June 26, 2019Reply

      How wonderful it would be to look at a garden and know about when it was started, how trends changed, how the souls or weather changed, maybe how old the Gardner was at the beginning and end, male or female, change in family status, the changing levels of care, preferences, the various changing designs and what this all tells us about the gardner's life:. Like a fingerprint! How very exciting this would be, a new avenue of sleuthing! Garden profiles! I live it! So very intriguing!! BBC! Get ready for a new gardening and sleuthing show! WOW! The fun we will have!!!

  • Chloe Pearse
    Comment added June 24, 2019Reply

    I had never thought about the symbolism on gardens now I’m fascinated to learn more!

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