Gardentopia: Design Basics for Creating Beautiful Outdoor Spaces



Gardentopia is that rare marriage of the art of landscaping and the technical knowledge of how to compose a landscape―boiled down to readily understood and easily executed actions. This book puts you in the driver’s seat and shows you how to chart the course to your own personal garden utopia.” – Margie Grace, Grace Design Associates

Any backyard has the potential to refresh and inspire if you know what to do. Jan Johnsen’s new book, Gardentopia: Design Basics for Creating Beautiful Outdoor Spaces, will delight all garden lovers with over 130 lushly illustrated landscape design and planting suggestions. Ms. Johnsen is an admired designer and popular speaker whose hands-on approach to “co-creating with nature” will have you saying, “I can do that!’

This info-packed, sumptuous book offers individual tips for enhancing any size landscape using ‘real world’ solutions. The suggestions are grouped into five categories that include Garden Design and Artful Accents, Walls, Patios, and Steps and Plants and Planting, among others. Whether you are an experienced gardener or a landscaping novice, Gardentopia will inspire you with tips such as ‘Soften a Corner”, “Paint it Black”, and “Hide and Reveal”.

100 color photographs

From the Publisher

Bring out the true beauty in any outdoor space with 135 insightful tips

Garden for a Small Space

Garden for a Small Space

Graceful Curve

Graceful Curve



Soften a Corner

Soften a Corner

Garden for a Small Space

Tip 74:

If you have a small space and want a garden, the answer may be cascading greenery. Hanging plants, vines trained on railings, and narrow planters packed with small succulents and annuals offer ways to create a compact landscape on your balcony, deck, or raised terrace. There are many options . . .

The Graceful Sweep of a Curve

Tip 4:

The sweep of a curve lends a gracious air to a landscape. Your eye cannot help but follow it around. By laying out a plant bed or walkway in a strong, curving line, you invite people to explore. Use a curve with a single radius to create a visual impact. Graceful arcs reflect the forms we see in nature—flower petals, pine cones, leaves, and seashells. Stay away from curvy wiggles because they dilute the captivating “follow me” effect. An effective way to lay out an accurate curve for a plant bed is to . . .

Rosette Patterns Grab the Eye

Tip 100:

Plants with radial foliage always grab our attention in the garden. “Rosette” is the term used to describe a circular pattern of leaves that emerge out from the center with a wheel- like symmetry. A rosette plant usually has leaves that start near the ground. Several types of plants grow in this intriguing way . . .

Soften a Corner

Tip 16:

Sharp corners of walls, especially those constructed of stone or concrete, may appear harsh in a garden. A 90- degree corner casts what Chinese feng shui calls cutting chi, or what some call a poison arrow. If you stand in the aim of this energetic arrow you may not feel as serene and relaxed as you might otherwise feel.

To counteract this unwelcome effect, you can soften sharp corners of protruding walls by planting a clinging vine that adheres by discs or rootlets. Examples of this are . . .

Dry StreamDry Stream

Read Gardentopia to learn how to create this and so much more!



This before-photo of a dry stream illustrates how the lines of the trench curve like a natural stream. This is in my backyard and I chose plants that would normally grow by a stream such as Siberian iris (Iris sibirica) and the yellow and white ‘Evergold’ sedge (Carex oshimensis ‘Evergold’). The purple flowers are ‘Buddy Purple’ Gomphrena.

The Intriguing Dry Stream

An attractive drainage solution for puddles in a lawn is to direct surface runoff into a dry stream. Also referred to as a dry creek, this landscape feature is a gravel-filled trench that is laid out to look like a natural watercourse. It does not hold water but simply allows it to permeate down into the earth. A dry stream is easy to install and looks beautiful when bordered with rocks and low-growing plants. Locate this feature at the edge of a grassy area to catch runoff from the lawn.


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