Photographs by Jerry Harpur
Distributed by Bookwise
Reviewed by Mike Gowing
HANDS UP those who don't
have any idea about what constitutes "sharp gardening"? A clue can
be found in the fact the author is said to be the holder of the
largest British collection of New Zealand flaxes.
Yes, New Zealand turns
out to have quite a bit to do with sharp gardening - got the point?
Sharp gardening means gardening with swords, straps and spikes interspersed
with contrasting plants - ornamental grasses, low-maintenance perennials
and the like.
In Britain, the author
created a bit of a stir with his first sharp garden in Cumbria,
exciting the attention of the national press and getting it featured
on the BBC's Garden World.
Holliday defines sharp
gardening as a "different kind of gardening" that guarantees: massive
impact however small the plot; an even spread of interest throughout
the year; tolerance of dry conditions; structure relying on planting
rather than hard landscaping; an exciting look using an exotic type
of planting; low maintenance planting without a lawn.
If this seems familiar,
you're not wrong. New Zealand gets ample credit in this densely
illustrated hardback, alongside California and (for Brits) other
Auckland's Ayrlies, Bev
McConnell's amazing garden, gets a full two pages and pictures,
including a stunning shot of the swimming pool's surrounds. Bev's
use of Doryanthes palmeri, Agave geminiflora, Acanthus
spinosus and Furcraea gigantea, to name a few, are singled
out. Perhaps Ayrlies can lay claim to being the original "sharp
Another influence on
this emerging style is that of expat garden designer James Fraser.
The pictures of
Fraser's garden with its fountain grass and red tussock defy the
reader to place it in a suburban south London plot.
If this sounds like
coals to Newcastle, it isn't. This book has a lot to commend it
to the Kiwi gardener, particularly those who battle with an arid
coastal section and are bold enough to seek a strong statement.
Reproduced with permission from the former Weekend Gardener magazine. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH