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A Review of the Garden Designer’s New Book

Garden designer Leslie Bennett’s new book Garden Wonderland (out April 2, 2024) is full of delicious surprises. For one, it’s so much more than a book about edible landscape design, for which Bennett’s design-build firm Pine House Edible Gardens, is best known. Yes, there are plenty of fruit trees and raised veggie beds within, but the book includes other types of gardens as well. It’s broken into five types of wonderland: edible, floral, healing, gathering, and cultural.

The 18 client gardens, plus Bennett’s own backyard, that are featured in the book are gorgeous, immersive, and aspirational, but they also feel eminently approachable, like they could belong to your cool friend (not someone with a full-time gardener). Those people and their stories are also right there in the pages of the book: Bennett’s clients were all photographed in their gardens, which is something you don’t often see. The result is a volume that feels deeply human and captures the spirit of “wonder” that Bennett hopes we will experience in our gardens.

Leslie&#8\2\17;s own garden wonderland, in Oakland, CA.
Above: Leslie’s own garden wonderland, in Oakland, CA.

More than just a dreamy coffee table book, Garden Wonderland  is packed with practical how-to advice and takeaways for both novice and seasoned gardeners. We spoke to Bennett to find out how we can all weave more wonder into our backyards. 

Photography by Rachel Weill, from Garden Wonderland.

Focus on plants.

Fragrant English lavender, edible pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana), Agave celsii, kalanchoe, and kangaroo paws fill this cottage garden. Their contrasting foliage and flowers provide year-round beauty. 
Above: Fragrant English lavender, edible pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana), Agave celsii, kalanchoe, and kangaroo paws fill this cottage garden. Their contrasting foliage and flowers provide year-round beauty. 

To pay attention to plants in a garden may sound like obvious advice, but Bennett points out that many of today’s yards center around expensive hardscape elements or fancy furniture. “In contrast, a garden wonderland is a plant-based space where fairly minimal hardscape will do,” Bennett notes in her introduction. “By designing your garden using lots of lushly layered, interactive plants, you can create a place where you will be surrounded by plant and animal life and awaken all your senses. You may brush past a scented geranium and welcome its fragrance or savor the taste of luscious homegrown fruit.”

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