Vanessa Gardner Nagel

With 45 years of design experience, Vanessa Gardner Nagel’s two garden design books and numerous articles are her way of sharing her expertise and accumulated knowledge with a wider community, including the UK and even China!

Learn how to design your garden and then furnish it for a complete outdoor living experience.

Understanding Garden Design

Understanding Garden Design

Designing a garden is a complex task. Where do you start? What kind of skills do you need? What are the logical steps in creating a design? How do you communicate your ideas to a client, and how do you accommodate a client’s requests while maintaining the integrity of the project? The answers to these questions, and many more, can all be found in Understanding Garden Design.

Most books on garden design focus on only one or a few aspects of garden design — choosing plants or creating a hardscape, for example. This comprehensive, accessible book lays out the entire process from start to finish in clear, precise language that avoids the pitfalls of “designspeak.” In fact, garden owners and clients of garden designers who want to understand more about the designer’s craft will be able to profit from the book’s lessons.

Among the many topics covered are how to document a site, how to determine what a client needs and wants from the garden, how to take architectural features into consideration, how to think about circulation and lay out paths, how to use basic design principles, how to work with plants, and how to create a final design. Practical aspects are clearly laid out, including working with contractors and staying on top of the various phases of construction.

This thorough handbook is profusely illustrated with helpful photographs and diagrams. A particularly interesting tool is the hypothetical garden plan that appears in each chapter to show how to apply the topics at hand.

A practical, logical approach to the planning, design, and installation of a garden, this volume will be an invaluable resource for students, landscape professionals, and garden designers.

Praise for Understanding Garden Design

Thorough and thoroughly accessible…
—Carol Haggas, Booklist

A wonderful handbook for anyone to own.
—Garden Design Online

I am not a landscape designer, I am a very methodical planning oriented person who is interested in redesigning the yard. This book is fabulous and exactly what I needed. It does detail the principles of design (Visual balance of leaves, the importance of height for single story structures etc.) but as the book says, that all starts somewhere in the middle.
—C. Most (Amazon review)

I am really enjoying your book! Your approach to design has a lot of great information and I’m looking forward to trying some of your ideas out on my next project. I am intrigued by your method of calculating circulation. Plus you have included a lot of really valuable and practical information. It is a great book for the beginner and for more experienced designers as well as a good refresher for design concepts as well as the nitty gritty.
—Ellen Johnston, President of APLD Southwest Regional Chapter

I recently picked up this book which has offered a wealth of information about things I thought I already knew. It is so nice to be refreshed and inspired and to see beautiful images! This is a great book for the expert and the novice.
—Lisa Port, APLD, Seattle WA

You did a masterful job of including so much in just over 200 pages.
—Douglas Owens-Pike, APLD, Minneapolis, MN

The Professional Designer’s Guide to Garden Furnishings

Professional Designers Guide to Garden Furnishings

Gardens don’t need just plants, paths, and walls; they need chairs, benches, cushions, arbors, Containers, and artwork, too. But finding and choosing these accessories can be a challenge. The Professional Designer’s Guide to Garden Furnishings helps you meet the challenge by providing both visual inspiration and practical information about how to choose and where to find just about every kind of accessory a garden might need.

This comprehensive guide includes information on how furnishings are linked to architecture; offers tips and techniques for choosing furnishings based on comfort, scale, and proportion; and provides a survey of sixteen popular styles, including Craftsman, Midcentury Modern, and Contemporary. Vanessa Gardner Nagel, herself a professional garden designer as well as a nationally certified interior designer, also discusses the properties of a wide variety of material choices, including wood, stone, ceramics, concrete, metal, and fabrics. An extensive list of sources rounds out this truly indispensable guide.

Praise for The Professional Designer’s Guide to Garden Furnishings

An invaluable book for any designer and for any homeowner who’s interested in buying quality outdoor materials that will stand the test of time.
—Jane Berger, Garden Design Online

Chapters geared toward the professional elevate this comprehensive guidebook to a higher level even as Nagel’s approach makes it an accessible reference for the novice garden decorator.
—Booklist Online

Vanessa Gardner Nagel has written this colorful and quite thorough guide to the materials and the supply chain in specifying outdoor furniture, fabrics, containers, and other fixtures. Her good sense advice can save you any number of calls from irritated clients.
—Landscape Architecture Magazine

This book is an aid and inspiration for design professionals and students of the field. Considerations for outdoor furnishing purchases are clearly broken down. The list of resources Nagel provides is valuable, no matter the skill level of the reader..
—Library Journal

Vanessa Gardner Nagel’s book is an excellent guide for homeowners and professional landscape designers alike. Now that we are using our outdoor spaces as rooms and places to sit and relax or host gatherings we are finding we need furnishings that suit the space. I was so inspired and got so many excellent ideas. This book is now part of my resource library.
—Laurin Lindsey, Garden Designer/p>

outdoor fabric in a garden

My Articles and Blog

Living in the Pacific Northwest has taught me that gardens can be bone dry in one season, boggy wet in another and have temperature extremes that make you tear out your hair. It’s a challenging environment and one that forces you to come to grips with creating a garden that works here. In my former garden, I had a relatively flat area on the upper part of my 2/3 acre and a steep bowl-like ravine (with spring & creek) on the lower half. I had more biomes in my garden than I could often keep track of…but I had to in order to be a successful gardener.

Crossing the threshold to the inside of a home, I am keenly aware of the relationship of interiors to gardens through windows and doors. As an experienced home remodeler (finishing an entire home remodel on a budget for the second time) in addition to many interior design projects for architectural firms in San Francisco, Santa Rosa, and Portland, I can relate to just about anything any homeowner has experienced or needs to change. This gives me plenty of story material including living with sawdust, when the lights go out and the sink is my bathtub. It also has given me extensive experience managing tasks from the ceiling to the floor and best time to break out the wine (unless grape juice calms your frayed nerves).

My background in interior and garden design is combined with a nerdy scientific curiosity and respect for the whole that is Nature. This is what I bring to writing. I want people to fall in love with gardening, their homes, their gardens, and to discover themselves in the process. My wish for them is to always be curious – even when looking out the window on a dreary wintry day with snow on the ground. That’s the best time to be curled up with hot cocoa and a good book inside – so where’s that cozy space when you need it?

I used to write a blog, Garden Chirps, so those articles are still available. I find I connect best with people on FaceBook or occasionally on Instagram now. I typically write about what’s happening in my garden, my interior remodeling and how I approach keeping prices as low as possible, particularly with respect to why I’m making changes or creating something new. Don’t our homes and gardens deserve to remain fresh and relevant while they still remain true to their sense of place?

cool seating