Book Review: Brilliant and Wild – A Garden from Scratch in a Year

When I read of the recent publication of Brilliant and Wild I did not hesitate to order a copy as it seemed to resonate with my interest in the wildlife-friendly new perennial movement. The author, former primary school teacher Lucy Bellamy, trained at the Chelsea Physic Garden and with the RHS and worked as a freelance garden journalist writing for The Guardian, The Times and Modern Garden amongst others before becoming the editor of Gardens Illustrated magazine in March 2017.

The back cover of the book makes a bold and compelling claim. “From back-of-an-envelope plan to flower-filled paradise – Brilliant and Wild: A Garden from Scratch in a Year gives even the most inexperienced gardener the chance to create a beautiful and wildlife-friendly space – from nothing – in just twelve months.” With this in mind I dived straight into the book and was immediately impressed with its clear layout, generously supplemented with beautiful photographs by James Ingram.

The introduction is poetic in the way that it paints an image in the reader’s mind of the garden that awaits them if they follow the philosophy and guidance set out within the pages of the book. “A brilliant and wild garden is never still. It trumpets a fanfare for every season and celebrates every kind of weather. Shoots shoot, blooms burst, seeds embellish, frost gilds.”

Lucy devotes almost half of the book to describing the plants from which to create your Brilliant and Wild garden. The plants are grouped by inflorescence type, umbellifers, spikes, dots, flatheads, panicles and grasses, with a separate section devoted to bulbs, corms and tubers. The description for each plant includes why you should grow it, its size, wildlife benefits and what goes well with it.  There are also recommendations as to the best species or cultivars to look out for.

After celebrating the beauty of winter seed heads Lucy turns to the design and selection of plants that work well together.  Using between four and seven plants, there are five simple planting plans that demonstrate how to weave the plants together and to serve as inspiration and information for the reader.  

Lucy then moves on to the practicalities of calculating how many plants you will need and to sourcing them before getting down to the business of planting your own Brilliant and Wild garden. Once planted the book then looks at the wealth of insects and birds that you can expect to attract and the role they play in the ecology of your new garden as well as maintenance and some helpful hints and tips should things not go quite as planned.

Finally the book includes a handy calendar showing when the plants described flower and display their seed heads as well as a resources section listing nurseries and suggestions for a couple of gardens to visit.

Will I plant a Brilliant and Wild garden? Probably not in the way Lucy describes in her book, for one thing, there is no way that I could restrict my planting to a just handful of reliable perennials!  I do however see myself using her ideas to introduce more elements of perennial planting into my own garden. This book is aimed at the inexperienced, time-poor gardener who wants the garden to work for them and not the other way around, but equally, seasoned gardeners can be encouraged to look afresh at their relationship with their own gardens. It is a book that is full of promise and will I believe encourage readers of all ages, especially those who are new to gardening, to have a go at creating their own Brilliant and Wild garden.

Brilliant and Wild – A Garden from Scratch in a Year is published by Pimpernel Press Limited

One comment Add yours
  1. Thanks for pointing me in the direction of your review; like you, I wouldn’t follow these plans from scratch but it sounds as though it’s a very useful book for anyone who wants a garden full of flowers and wildlife without understanding the design principles behind achieving a dream garden. I might see if I can persuade my local library to stock it!


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