Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Beyond Wild: Gardens and Landscapes By Raymond Jungles, a book review

Early last December I watched a Garden Conservancy lecture with landscape architect Raymond Jungles. The topic was his latest book; Beyond Wild: Gardens and Landscapes By Raymond Jungles. I was so enthralled with the work Mr. Jungles shared during the lecture that I requested a review copy of the book from the publisher, Monacelli Press.

The large, 255 page, hardcover book with full color photos—including site plans for each of the 22 projects covered—arrived just before for Christmas. I love site plans, to me they read like artwork, I was thrilled to see the space given to printing them at a size I could easily absorb. 

Below is the plan for the Grove Studio Garden, a plant-filled gift to the neighborhood around the offices of Raymond Jungles, Inc. in Coconut Grove, Florida, as well as a space enjoyed by the firm's staff.

As I worked through the book my "West Coast eyes" never did manage to adjust to the expanses of lush green lawn that seem so effortless in the tropical locations featured, nor was I able to shake my bromeliad-in-the-ground fueled jealousy. Unfortunately the photo captions do not include many plant names, so there was no adding to my plant lust-list as I read (maybe that's a good thing?). 

The photo below, from the Pine Tree North Garden in Miami Beach, Florida, shows the sort of casual, plant-filled spaces referenced in this statement on the firm's website: "The firm’s design priorities are generated by the scale and functionality of a space. Simple, clean, and well-detailed hardscape elements are the quintessential bones of a garden. Planting volumes vary and bold colors and textures are used with intent." 

I am a little confused by the second half of the the photo's caption though, which reads: "Jungles extended Studio MK27's concept of a simple green roof by incorporating flowering bromeliads that can be seen from above and below." Flowering bromeliads? As opposed to nonflowering bromeliads? What does that even mean? 

Which brings me to my primary complaint about the book, there is a bit of disconnect between the writing and the dramatic images of the projects. Even more so from the engaging way that Mr. Jungles spoke about the projects in the Garden Conservancy lecture that spurred me to read the book. In fact the book reads a lot like the project cut sheets I used to be responsible for putting together when I was in the marketing department of a local architecture firm. Just the facts, and no take-away, or lesson for the reader. Then again maybe there doesn't need to be? The book doesn't claim to be anything other than a monograph on Raymond Jungles work, which it is—a gorgeous one at that.

I had the strangest sense of déjà vu as I turned the page and saw this photo, from the Golden Rock Inn Garden in the West Indies...

Finally I realized where I'd seen it before, it's the cover shot of Gardenlust; A Botanical Tour of the World’s Best New Gardens, by Christopher Woods (the cover was the best thing about that book, in my opinion). How fun to learn more about the garden from the man behind the project!

Another image from the same garden below, the caption reads: "The buttress-like roots of a Ceiba pentandra wrap around remnants of historic sugar plantation structures. The ravine beyond was inundated during the rainy season, so it has been filled and restored with water-loving plants."

Don't you just want to be IN that garden? I do.

After finishing Beyond Wild I had a strong urge to reread my copy of Roberto Burle Marx: The Lyrical Landscape as I haven't picked it up in quite awhile. Mr. Jungles is an authority on Mr. Marx's work, a fact it's impossible not to see, even if all you did was look at the beautiful pages of Beyond Wild and didn't read a word (which would be a mistake, by the way).

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2.04.2021 An update: it's unusual for me to add to a blog post once it's been posted, however since I received a thoughtful email from Mr. Jungles responding to a few of the points in my review, and he gave me permission to share, here are a few excerpts:

Thank you for the thoughtful review of my new monograph, Beyond Wild. It was a special book for me, as my daughter, Amanda, singlehandedly took the lead in designing the layout, selecting final imagery, and writing the narratives and image captions. 
We would go on walks in the mornings where she would interview me on the design of each project, recording my thoughts in between the honks of cars and squawks from neighborhood peacocks. She then would write the narratives with very little need for oversight. 
A few other responses to your review:  
  • The bromeliads mentioned in the caption are Portea Jungles, grown for their beautiful, tall, long-lived flowers. 
  • The book does not endeavor to teach planting design but to inspire restoration of natural habitat and celebrate plants. However, many of the image captions call out plant species with latin names, and the publisher knew that a balance of plant identification was important for our fans.  
  • We take the opportunity in our lectures to go into projects in a deeper way, as well as use Instagram to share our knowledge. My daughter is the sole person in our marketing department and also is the creator of my 300+ slide lectures. She brilliantly finds before and after image pairings on projects she has never visited. Most projects, she has never visited.  
  • Yes, lawn is easy when you have 60 inches of rainfall every year. We always try to minimize and promote lawn substitutes like Phylla nodiflora. 
—   —   —

I received a complimentary review copy of Beyond Wild: Gardens and Landscapes By Raymond Jungles from Monacelli Press. I was under no obligation to write about the book. All photos courtesy Monacelli Press. Words © 2009-2022 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. I'm so glad you reviewed this book. It's been on my wish list for a while now. The photos are stunning!

    1. The photos really are reason enough to add the book to your shelf. I'll be interested to hear what you think!

  2. That last image is incredible and, yes, I'd love to be right in the middle of it!

    1. So lush! As I said to someone who commented on my danger garden Facebook page Mr. Jungles is the rare landscape architect who appears to treat the plants as equal to the hardscape.

  3. Maybe they mean the bromeliads that are grown for their tall flowers, not the ones hidden in the center cups, which tend to be about the foliage, not the flowers? But yeah strange...

    I am guessing with Florida gardens they can get overgrown and jungle-like very quickly because of heat, rain, humidity. Outdoors there is like a greenhouse or conservatory here. So careful under planting might be a standard approach. So lush, but mosquitos, snakes...?

    1. Ahhh, yes. You might be on to something there, that makes sense.

      One of the project write-ups specifically mentioned snakes in the grass, and a perimeter fence to help keep them out. That took me back to growing up with rattlesnakes around and having to be constantly scanning for them—something I do not miss!

  4. I bought Garden Lust online during the first round of COVID and was definitely disappointed. But I do love to see the designer's layout drawings. They are always a boon in any garden book.


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