I received Val Bourne’s Colour in the Garden for Christmas, and in the lull of short dark days at the end of the year I sat by the fire and devoured it cover to cover. (Not literally, of course).
The vivid pink cosmos on the front cover held me in instant thrall, reminding me of some of my favourite tall ‘Sensation’ cosmos that danced in our borders a few months before. I was a little wary, however, that the book would contain a dry litany of colour theory; interesting reading but perhaps not to be digested in one sitting.
How wrong I was! A relatively brief introduction presented a simplified colour wheel and danced gently around the interplay of colours of different groups, soon drawing upon real planting combinations to demonstrate the theory, with consideration to seasonal appeal and longevity. After my initial misgivings, my one criticism would be that perhaps more detail on colour theory at this point would have been well received.
After this light and interesting prologue, the remainder of the book is split into three different colour combinations for each season; such as Spring Zing and Summer Sparkle. Far from prescriptive plantings, however, these twelve sections embrace colour and season with real flair. The writing is exuberant and lyrical, invoking a wide range of plants that present the author as both plantswoman and poet.
This is the first book by Val Bourne that I have read, though I have enjoyed her writings in newspapers and magazines when I have come across them, and it utterly captivated me. I love her enthusiasm for plants and breadth of knowledge, and could not put the book aside until I had finished it. The pages are full of beautiful photographs, which make a volume that is as enjoyable to look at as it is to read. It is a wonderful tonic for the dark days of winter, firing up my imagination for the growing season ahead, and I suspect will have many re-readings.