Spot Gardens: A Guide For Creating And Planting Miniature Gardens, Indoors And Outdoors, by Robert E. Atkinson
Why would you care about this book? Well, for one, it was written in 1973 and it makes for a worthwhile look at gardening history, which is worthwhile for a reader like myself who likes reading about both gardening  and history. For another, the author explains what spot gardens are and where they can be used: both inside and outside, a model for expressing taste without a great deal of time and expense required, useful for obscure and odd places in one’s property or house, inexpensive and right for those who don’t want to devote a lot of time to gardening. In short, this is a book about gardening history for someone like myself. I am definitely the target audience of this book, or I would have been had I been alive when it was written, and this is a worthwhile and enjoyable book despite its age. The fact that this book is worthwhile more than forty years after it was written makes it a gardening book for the ages, and certainly a lot more detailed than many contemporary books, even discussing just how far north certain plants can be used by gardeners.
The more than 250 pages of this book are divided into a variety of chapters that show where and how one can create miniature gardens in and around some excellent modernist houses all over North America. The author looks at miniature gardens at the entrances of houses, at walls and fences, under trees, using water as a main element, along paths and floors, on private patios (including for bathrooms where there is privacy), along the coast, with rock gardens, in mounds, in containers for portable gardens, tropical plantings that can handle cold weather, Japanese gardens, kitchen gardens, and sculpture and art. The chapters include a great deal of useful information and a lot of pictures. One can learn from the pages of this book that in gardening for the indoors one has to basically treat the indoors like a desert garden and the reason why one doesn’t use treated wood for a vegetable garden because of the high degree of arsenic poisoning that can result. Any book that can include that much information about gardening and that can be so useful and practical is something well worth reading and enjoying. Even if it is an old book, there is a lot that is of value, and I can tell that at least one person I know used this book because I have seen some of the work that looks very much like some of the gardens included herein.
Despite the fact that there is a lot of value in this book, there are at least a couple of criticisms that can be made about it from my own perspective as a reader. First, the book has a great many photos, but they are all in black and white, which definitely makes the visualization a lot harder even if the supporting text is very descriptive. One of the things one learns from being an avid reader and reviewer of gardening books (a genre I must admit I did not see myself being very familiar with growing up) is that the pictures are often of a very high quality, with a wide range of shades and a great deal of contrast that pops off the page. This book has a bland and dull monochrome feel that shows a lack of the budget necessary to make the sort of book the subject matter deserved. The second fault I find with this book is that towards its end, it has a great deal to say in praise of heathen art and religion and culture, and that is something I find personally objectionable, given the idolatrous content of much of what the author says is the sort of art that can beautify surroundings. To be sure, the author might not have meant it religiously, but the art chosen is morally problematic for those of us who take the Bible seriously, and requires the reader to distance himself from the aesthetic approach of the author in our own design principles. Aside from these flaws, though, the book still has a lot to offer even more than 40 years after it was written, and that is no small achievement.
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