By Vanessa Gardner Nagel, APLD, Timber Press, $34.95,

10Simple step by step instructions with necessary tools listed and meticulous directions fill Vanessa Gardner Nagel’s Understanding Garden Design: The Complete Handbook for Aspiring Designers. Nagel offers beautifully ornate garden pictures for inspiration but, taking it one step further, she delves into the mechanics of designing a good but usable landscape, patio, or park-like yard. The book begins with a practical guide to designing your garden, answering questions pertaining to sustainability, working with slopes, impact on your health, when to install and what to keep. Once you’ve made these crucial decisions, it’s time for the measuring, scaling, soil, critters and drainage process.

Most all of the advice given is of the working with Mother Nature attitude, leaving the more natural settings as a focus for design. This guidebook is more about the science of landscaping rather than actually planting a vegetable garden. In fact, it is reminiscent of a peaceful park setting rather than a functional backyard filled with kids and their many toys. Enjoyable read with much to learn if you want to plan that private, personal hideaway backyard!

Reviewed by M. Chris Johnson,