By helping you define your style, choose plants, and build hardscaping elements, a good landscaping book puts a magazine-worthy landscape within your reach. The best landscaping books for homeowners cover the fundamentals, but each has its own approach. Finding one tailored to your interests will help you create your dream garden.
Gaia’s Garden, Second Edition: A Guide to Home Scale Permaculture (2009)
By Toby Hemenway
One of the most highly rated landscaping books on the market, this 313-page guide teaches you how to achieve a beautiful, thriving landscape by cooperating with your local natural environment. You’ll learn how to enhance and maintain soil fertility and structure, conserve water, landscape with edibles, and protect the habitat of local wildlife even in urban areas.
It covers essential topics such as planting, watering, and fertilization, but it’s not aimed at beginners. Planting design tips focus on the natural and casual. Many of the suggestions are ideal for northwest gardeners, but less so for those in the southeast and cold-winter climates.
Edible Landscaping (2010)
By Rosalind Creasy
Rosalind Creasy draws on decades of experience to help you design a landscape that’s as productive as it is beautiful. Her 384-page book with more than 300 photos offers practical how-to guidance on using color, form, scale, and other elements for visual appeal. Whether your goal is an elegant formal garden or a casual cottage ambiance, you’ll find inspiration and ideas here. The book’s “Encyclopedia of Edibles” provides horticultural information on a wide selection of vegetables, fruits, nuts, berries, and herbs in a range of forms, including flowers, shrubs, vines, and trees.
Step-by-Step Landscaping (2007)
By Better Homes and Gardens Gardening
This hefty 407-page guide outlines more than 100 projects with 700 photos. Learn how to handle small landscaping improvements such as installing edging or setting up an arbor as well as take on more advanced projects such as building a treehouse or designing an outdoor kitchen. The basics of correcting grading, building decks and patios, and putting up walls and fences are covered, too.
Each project includes a cost and time estimate, but many are fairly high-budget. The guides provide an overview of each step, but they aren’t particularly in-depth. The book offers some planting tips, but hardscaping is its primary focus.
Gardentopia: Design Basics for Creating Beautiful Outdoor Spaces
By Jan Johnsen
Taking a light and breezy approach, Johnson masterfully blends creative inspiration with practical guidance that puts a beautiful landscape within everyone’s reach. Her 288-page book is formatted into five sections: Garden Design and Artful Accent Tips; Walls, Patios, Walks and Steps; Theme Gardens; Color in the Garden; and Plants and Planting.
Within these sections are 135 specific design guidelines for common landscaping issues such as designing for small spaces, creating layers and patterns, filling in corners, and improving drainage. Every page introduces an essential concept or technique with a focus on affordable, beginner-friendly solutions.
Planting: A New Perspective (2013)
By Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury
World-renowned landscaper Piet Oudolf’s 280-page book helps you design a landscape with a professional touch, even if you’re new at planting design. The book details why certain designs look so inviting and what common plants need to thrive. The guidance reflects Oudolf’s love of perennials and woody plants and his focus on structure and texture that ensure the landscape looks good year-round.
Extensive plant charts and planting plans give you ideas for creating layers of mutually beneficial plants with multi-season appeal. The plant directory shares details on each plant recommended, including its size, bloom time, foliage structure, and seeding habits.
Garden Design Master Class: 100 Lessons from The World’s Finest Designers on the Art of the Garden (2020)
By Carl Dellatore
This work brings together 100 essays by some of today’s top landscaping designers. The selection includes Sarah Kowitz on walled gardens and P. Allen Smith on creating mystery and surprise. Essays are grouped by topic, including Style, Structure, Elements, and Inspiration, with succinct titles to help you zero in on what interests you. They cover a wide range of garden styles, both formal and informal, and address a host of essential principles. You’ll learn about working with patterns, scale, and sightlines and incorporating pathways, sculptures, and water features into your design. Photos of the designer’s work bring each essay to life.
The Living Landscape (2014)
By Rick Darke and Douglas W. Tallamy
The Living Landscape puts the preservation of native biodiversity at the forefront by teaching you both the ecological fundamentals and the landscape design principles necessary for creating an eco-friendly landscape. It begins with an introduction to layers in wild landscapes, including forests, wetlands, and grasslands. It then outlines what makes a stable, productive ecosystem with helpful charts and color-coding.
From there, it guides you in using this information to design an appealing landscape that incorporates color, form, texture, and fragrance while also providing habitat for native wildlife and spaces for kids and pets. The information is aimed at those with larger suburban homes in the Northern, Eastern, or Midwestern U.S., but the basic concepts it shares work anywhere.
Encyclopedia of Landscape Design: Planning, Building, and Planting Your Perfect Outdoor Space Hardcover (2017)
By D.K. Publishing
This comprehensive, beginner-friendly landscaping guide arms you with the fundamentals and walks you through the process of planning and creating a landscape you’ll love. From choosing a style to preparing your site and planting, all the basics are covered in 392 pages. You’ll also find advice on hardscaping elements such as paths, patios, and water features.
Photos illustrate each of the 13 landscape styles featured, although the examples included tend to be more luxurious gardens on larger properties. The plant and materials guides get you acquainted with the basics, but leave out certain critical information, such as plant hardiness zone range.
Taylor’s Master Guide to Landscaping (2000)
By Rita Buchanan
Accomplished horticulturist and author Rita Buchanan’s exceptionally clear writing style makes this in-depth 400-page guide an ideal starting point for beginners. It covers a wide selection of landscaping essentials, including lawns, choosing and designing with plants, creating walkways and walls, and lighting. Multiple chapters go into detail on caring for common landscape plants.
Although Buchanan doesn’t shy away from sharing her opinions, she encourages readers to consider the needs of their individual landscape. The 425 photos and line drawings are included more to illustrate important concepts than to spark ideas.
Big Impact Landscaping: 28 DIY Projects You Can Do on a Budget to Beautify and Add Value to Your Home (2017)
By Sara Bendrick
In just 192 pages, this handbook offers a range of do-able projects for taking the functionality of your landscape to the next level. Learn how to build an outdoor kitchen, set up a pergola, install a water feature, create a dry creekbed with a bridge, and take on numerous other projects that make your landscape more enjoyable and help your home stand out. The book aims to inspire more than instruct, so the projects are broken down into essential steps to give you an idea of how to get started. Almost all the projects included involve hardscaping, with little about planting design.