Monday, January 16, 2023

The Jungle Garden, a book review

When George Lowther recommended Philip Oostenbrink's book, The Jungle Garden along with my book, Fearless Gardening, and Jimi Blake's A Beautiful Obsession in a video (watch it here), I knew it was one I'd need to read. I finally have!

January is all about garden dreaming for me, as I don't like to be either cold or wet, so time spent in the actual garden is minimal. In other words it's the perfect time to tackle my growing stack of books and soak up inspiration from their pages. The Jungle Garden offers that in spades. 

I love a garden book that starts off with a bit of backstory on the author and details their discovering gardening and how they ended up gardening in the way that they do. Reading about Philip's visit to Will Giles' exotic garden in Norwich (England) reminded me to pull another book of my shelf, an oldie but goodie, Encyclopedia of Exotic Plants for Temperate Climates by Will Giles. I do miss Will's blog!

The Jungle Garden is full of dreamy photos and lots of design tips. The plantings are very UK-driven, which is to say many of the plants I got excited about are not hardy in my USDA Zone 8. Many, but not all. There are several stalwarts such as Tetrapanax papyrifer—mentioned no less than 25 times—that you will recognize. 

Something that I really appreciate about Philips approach to a jungle garden is that he doesn't leave out the larger idea of what an exotic garden can mean, which of course to me means spikes!

Andrew saw me reading the book and that got a conversation started about jungles. Andrew being who he is looked up the etymology of the word: "dense growth of trees and other tangled vegetation," such as that of some regions in India, from Hindi jangal "desert, forest, wasteland, uncultivated ground," from Sanskrit jangala-s "arid, sparsely grown with trees," a word of unknown origin" (source). Arid and sparsely grown are not words that quickly come to mind when one mentions a jungle, even more appropriate then that a garden style with xeric plants is included.

Something that struck me was the lack of bromeliads. Sure they're not hardy in most of the UK, but they're easily overwintered and definitely add a jungle atmosphere. 

Chapter 4: Jungle Perfection includes photos from 8 "covetable" jungle gardens...

I enjoyed getting lost in this book, which was a little like getting lost in a garden. To quote the author: "to lose your sense of direction and get lost is probably the best compliment for the layout of the paths in a jungle garden..."

The Jungle Garden comes from same publisher that brought us Jimi Blake's A Beautiful Obsession and The Crevice Garden by Kenton Seth and Paul Spriggs; Filbert Press. They sent me a review copy of the book, but I was under no obligation to write about it.

All material © 2009-2023 by Loree L Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. "Jungle" always translates to "tropical" in my mind so I'm glad you shared a definition of the term in a larger context. The book's inclusion of xeric plants makes it more interesting to me. I remember a neighbor referring to my former tiny garden as a jungle and I accepted that characterization but I never think of my current garden that way, although I'd love to give an area or two that feeling.

    1. Oh I definitely think there are parts of your garden that have a jungle feel!

  2. Thanks for this great review. This sounds like a book I would thoroughly enjoy. Will look for it.

  3. Looks like my kinda book! Thanks for your review.
    I have a love/hate relationship with Tetrapanax papyrifer - love the look of it, but find it very irritating to skin and eyes when I've maintained it in other people's gardens. Do you find that too?

    1. I've been growing it long enough that I've trained myself to not look up when I'm cutting off leaves and to only pick up ones that fall if I've got gloves on. It's nasty stuff!


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