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A Tapestry Garden: The Art of Weaving Plants and Place

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“This is a love story about a couple and their relationship with an acre-and-a-half of land. . . with exceptional plant descriptions that read like character references for old friends. . . . beautiful photographs and prose await.” — Library Journal

Marietta and Ernie O’Byrne’s garden—situated on one and a half acres in Eugene, Oregon—is filled with an incredible array of plants from around the world. By consciously leveraging the garden’s many microclimates, they have created a stunning patchwork of exuberant plants that is widely considered one of America’s most outstanding private gardens. In A Tapestry Garden , the O’Byrnes share their deep knowledge of plants and essential garden advice. Readers will discover the humble roots of the garden, explore the numerous habitats and the plants that make them shine, and find inspiration in photography that captures the garden’s astonishing beauty. There is something here for every type of a shade garden, perennial borders, a chaparral garden, a kitchen garden, and more. Profiles of the O’Byrne’s favorite plants—including hellebores, trilliums, arisaemas, and alpine plants—include comprehensive growing information and tips on pruning and care.  A Tapestry Garden captures the spirit of a very special place.

264 pages, Hardcover

Published April 26, 2018

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5 stars
24 (32%)
4 stars
32 (42%)
3 stars
15 (20%)
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3 (4%)
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1 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 22 of 22 reviews
Profile Image for Laurie.
954 reviews38 followers
March 9, 2018
In one of the best growing areas in the US, the Willamette Valley in Oregon, the O’Byrnes have created a wonderful garden- or, perhaps it should be called “gardenS”. On one and a half acres they have created a garden with several microclimates in it. They have both used existing microclimates and created some of their own- trees they planted when they first got there have matured and created shade gardens. No matter; they are not averse to moving plants when needed. Or, for that matter, moving tons of soil amendments and rocks.

It amazes me how they have done this garden; when they first arrived, they gardened for other people as a profession. Then they started a nursery. As someone who has done both those things, I have a great deal of respect for anyone who can do those things AND find the energy for doing what they have done!

The books chapters are the different zones in their garden: kitchen garden, chaparral, shady border, rockeries, conifer & heather, the woods. There is also a chapter on the garden in autumn and winter, and the last chapter is on caring for the garden. There are wonderful pictures that make me long to see the garden. Except for the last chapter, it’s not a how-to gardening book, but more of a ‘this is what you can do’ book of inspirations; there is a section on how to deal with pretty much any situation your garden has. It was a wonderful book to read this winter to make me long for spring.
Profile Image for Sara Joseph.
Author 3 books26 followers
July 30, 2018
Gorgeous book! Loved reading it, but loved the photos the best! Made me wish that I lived somewhere with weather that would allow a garden like this. This is the sort of book to savor and return to again and again.
Profile Image for Joanna.
2,112 reviews27 followers
June 17, 2019
Gorgeous photos, but I ended up skimming most of the prose. I bought this book with false expectations. It tells the story of one family’s gardening experience, and is pretty much a litany of “we bought this” “we did this” “we love this” ad nauseam. Because they garden in a different climate from me, these lists of beautiful plants were not actually helpful. It’s my own fault that I thought it would be a collection of photos of different gardens using the tapestry technique, with some tips and plant suggestions throughout, but I do wish that it were. Anyway, the gardens are lovely, and I am jealous, but also not willing to put in as much work and money as they do!
Profile Image for Mia.
381 reviews21 followers
March 18, 2020
This book is wonderful, but also a bit painful, and maybe dangerous.

Wonderful because the hundreds of gorgeous photos show the O'Byrne's jaw-dropping gardens from every lovely angle throughout the long blooming seasons in the enviable Pacific Northwest. The author's steady and informative text shares the process and history of both successes and failures during the couple's nearly FIVE DECADES loving this piece of former farmland into a lush and densely floral series of gardens surrounding their old farmhouse.

Painful because A) I don't live in the PNW and B) my garden is quite small, so even if I had 50 years left to transform my space, I couldn't create anything remotely as fantastic as the smallest corner of their 70 acres.

Dangerous because (you guessed it) The Tapestry Garden will make you want to quit your day job, sell a kidney, and hit your local purveyors of Less Often Seen and Not So Obvious trees, shrubs, perennials and oh, the bulbs! Giant snowdrops, 'Pagoda' fawn lilies--who knew those were an option?

Buy the book, pore over the photos, and take the inspiration to your own garden at your own risk. Prepare to have your kitchen window enlarged, maybe repeatedly, all the better to view the tapestry you create in your own green space. I've priced it. It's gonna hurt. "Sorry about no college money, son. But have you seen my wisteria?"
Profile Image for Linda.
308 reviews
July 13, 2018
When I discovered that Marietta and Ernie O'Byrne were writing a book about their famed Pacific Northwest Garden I immediately ordered it, even though it was months away from publication.  I envisioned losing myself in its pages and their garden the way I did last spring when I read about Herterten House and the creation of its garden. Alas, despite a volume stuffed with beautiful photos of the O'Byrne's garden and the plant combinations they are famed for, I never felt the kind of visceral connection I was looking for in their book: "A Tapestry Garden: The Art of Weaving Plants and Place."

Though the couple had 70 mostly open acres and an old barely liveable farmhouse, I never could clearly understand how the O'Byrnes created their personal paradise. What was most apparent to me as a gardener and a reader, is that Marietta O'Byrne is an intuitive, instinctual gardener. She seemed to get it from her head into the ground almost effortlessly in terms of design.

The O'Byrnes certainly took their time and made mistakes but, in order to learn from this book, I think you must take your creative lessons from looking at the pictures. The text does contain lots of useful information on trees and a wide variety of plants, including what worked for them and what they gave up on growing. There are special sections devoted to Arisaemas, Trilliums and their specialty, Hellebores which are loaded with tips on these species. There is a big map of the property on the endpapers with a key to all the garden locations and the chapters are based on the different gardens.

I came to 'A Tapestry Garden' looking for poetry and found the nuts and bolts of gardening, which left me with an appreciation for the skeletal structure of their creation but not its heart and soul. That said, this is a very personal criticism and I will admit that the glorious images that fill the book justify the purchase price.
738 reviews2 followers
May 1, 2018
A Tapestry Garden by Ernie O'Byrne and Marietta O'Byrne highlights the development of their home gardens. First of all these gardens are beautifully shown in the photographs. It is evident that this was a project of love for this couple as well as a massive undertaking.

I enjoyed the text which is very readable but it was the photographs that make this book shine. Before and after photos were included. Well done were the after photos which emphasized individual plants and entire areas of plantings. I did wish that there could have been more photographs during the work so that I could see the progress being made on the areas.

This is not so much of a reference or how-to book as it is a history of the journey in the creation of the O’Byrne’s gardens. It is a beautiful tribute to the work that they have created.

The publisher through Net Galley provided an ARC. I have voluntarily decided to read and review, giving my opinion and thoughts.
Profile Image for Cyndi Beane-Henry.
135 reviews1 follower
July 23, 2018
Who would have thought a gardening book would so enthrall me! I own several, and other than the basics of how to grow a certain plant, I have never foraged into a read as delectable as this was! I truly could not put it down until finished.

More than a how to, it tells this wonderful couple's story as they plan, plant and grow a garden with plants that are very few native to the Eugene, Oregon region, where they reside.

Charming, delightful, and a couple I'd love to sit down for tea with and discuss what I could do with my new yard, their book is the next best thing. They showcase plants native to around the globe. And yes, they literally weave a tapestry of plant ethnicity that is beyond imagination!

I certainly recommend this book if you want to be taken on tour of their spectacular garden!
Profile Image for Beth.
933 reviews21 followers
December 21, 2017
I love the O'Byrne's passion for experimentation, which is evident in their garden and this book. Trial and error, curiosity, and not being afraid to make mistakes (and learn from them) are lessons to be learned from "A Tapestry Garden." I like the beautiful photographs and the incredible variety of plants used in the pockets of different garden spaces.

*Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC, provided by the author and/or the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for BookBec.
414 reviews
November 9, 2019
This is an insider's book. To appreciate it, you have to already know something about the authors and have an extensive knowledge of plants' Latin names. (I do not -- and found the text hard going.) The pictures are lovely, but they often feature a whole lot of plants with only two or three named in the caption. Garden experts, enjoy!
Profile Image for Mlg.
1,152 reviews8 followers
June 22, 2018
Beautifully photographed and divided into chapters by the type of garden, this couple charts their journey to create a garden, then a nursery. I greatly admired their tenacity in sometimes waiting years to see seeds flower. Sadly, a lot of what they grow is too tender for this area.
233 reviews
May 27, 2019
I didn't read this book from cover to cover, but I enjoyed all the pictures several times and dipped into the text here and there. The book is easy to read and inspiring, with helpful tips woven throughout.
November 15, 2019
Good gardening book in a style I enjoy, for a climate which isn't quite mine. Nice photography, nice discussion of particular varieties. I might look through this again when shopping for plants in the spring.
424 reviews1 follower
May 24, 2018
A delight to read and awe at the photos of what this pair has created for us to enjoy.
Profile Image for Stacie.
1,833 reviews
July 6, 2018
Read mostly for the beautiful pictures of the gardens. The text recounted the planting lives of these gardeners. Wish the authors had included more common names in addition to the Latinate.
Profile Image for Marianne.
1,252 reviews28 followers
July 17, 2018
This is the very detailed story of a very large garden in the Pacific Northwest. Many many beautiful photographs.
Profile Image for Beth Ann.
106 reviews
August 18, 2019
This isn’t a “how-to” book, but a wonderful story of their garden and the photography is fabulous. I found plenty of inspiration even though my climate is quite different.
Profile Image for Linda.
559 reviews9 followers
August 14, 2020
A beautiful book, but it's mostly inspirational for an urban gardener.
464 reviews1 follower
June 5, 2018
“...the art of gardening includes the joy of anticipation and surprises, and a bulb planted in the wrong spot can always be moved!”

Lovely garden photography
Displaying 1 - 22 of 22 reviews

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