The Harrowsmith Landscaping Handbook


176 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-920656-39-0




Edited by Jennifer Bennett
Reviewed by Pleasance Crawford

Pleasance Crawford is a Canadian landscape and garden-history researcher
and writer and the co-author of Garden Voices: Two Centuries of Canadian
Garden Writing.


The first Canadian landscaping handbook, H.A. Engelhardt’s The Beauties of Nature Combined with Art (Montreal: James Lovell, 1872), included the basics of ornamental horticulture but concentrated on the theory and practice of landscape design. Then, as now, a Canadian book on landscaping was unusual; writings for the homeowner frequently focus on plants or other individual landscape elements, rather than on relationships between the site and its components. Welcome, then, is The Harrowsmith Landscaping Handbook, for its emphasis, throughout eleven chapters, is on design. Its contributors are professional landscape consultants, writers, and horticulturalists: Laura Berman, Charmaine Gaudet, Robert S. Dorney with Douglas H. Allen, Patrick Lima, Eva Hoepfner, Lawrence Sherk, Trevor Cole, and Karen LeGresley. Editor Jennifer Bennett, who wrote two chapters, is an Associate Editor of Harrowsmith magazine and author of The Harrowsmith Northern Gardener.

The writing is readable yet informal, with occasional anecdotes to delight the experienced and set the neophyte at ease. Subjects include site planning and initial construction; ecology and energy conservation; and uses of various plant groups — native plants, edible plants, ground covers, flowers, shrubs, vines, and trees. Bennett’s Chapter 1, “In Search of Paradise,” is weakest; it attempts the impossible in a nine-page survey of world garden history, and it concludes that we may now work in a “style that allows for anything at all, provided it is in its proper place” (p.15). One of the book’s strengths is that most of its contributors question popular concepts of things’ proper place in the landscape. A further strength would have been an introduction, directing attention to the important, interrelated, and innovative chapters to follow.

Appropriate illustrations are essential to a book on landscaping. The choice here is a curious mixture of archival photographs of unidentified homes and gardens, recent photographs of detached nineteenth century homes wrapped in spacious, well-established landscapes, closeup shots of plants, and simple pencil diagrams (by Ian Grainge). A glance at the many older homes, on the cover and in photographs throughout, may make the book seem irrelevant to most Canadians.


“The Harrowsmith Landscaping Handbook,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 13, 2024,