The Compact Garden: Discovering the Pleasures of Planting in a Small Space


127 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-921820-43-7
DDC 635.9




Reviewed by Janet Arnett

Janet Arnett is the former campus manager of adult education at Ontario’s Georgian College. She is the author of Antiques and Collectibles: Starting Small, The Grange at Knock, and 673 Ways to Save Money.



This is a weird little book that will be a joy for those who want to
read about gardening and a source of frustration to serious,
get-on-with-it gardeners.

Fawcett’s energetic style and sense of humor dominate. He’s
opinionated, informal, and determined not to be conventional. Welcome to
gardening as “ground-level empiricism,” “guerrilla gardening,”
and “windowsill hell.” Having grabbed attention with his lush crop
of expressive phrases, Fawcett proceeds to lead his readers down a
rather winding garden path of hints, tips, instructions, opinions, and
background information. This is all good stuff but, because it is tossed
together like good compost, the book is difficult to use as a reference

The work is directed to those with limited space and time to devote to
a garden. Fawcett doesn’t promise miracles and, avoiding the
all-is-bliss stance taken by most gardening books, acknowledges that all
gardens, however small, require hard work and at least some money.

All the basics are covered: planning, light, water, soil types, climate
zones, fertilizers, fences, neighbors, seeds, trees, shrubs, bulbs,
annuals, mulches, compost, pests, crop rotation, companion planting,
herbs, privacy, perennials, vines, vegetables, berries, container
gardens, roses, tools, philosophies, and a lot more. Organization,
however, is not one of the author’s priorities.

The book is one of the few I’ve seen that looks at the garden in the
context of the neighborhood beyond the owner’s lot lines. There’s
some good original thought on the subject.

Too many of the photos in the book are close-ups of plants, when
overviews of small gardens would have been more useful. Nonetheless, the
book is both attractive and amusing.


Fawcett, Brian., “The Compact Garden: Discovering the Pleasures of Planting in a Small Space,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 21, 2024,