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Icons of Garden Design

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Edited by Caroline Holmes. Prestel, 2001. 176pp. £19.95

Any book with the word 'icons' in the title is unlikely to contain many surprises, writes Ruth Slavid , so one should not be astonished by the familiar nature of much that is in this book. Yet, for all but the best-travelled and bestread, there should be at least some gardens that have not been encountered.

Each garden occupies a spread, with a handful of handsome photographs and a piece of informed if superficial text, thankfully short on rhetorical flourishes.

The arrangement is chronological, going from Sigiriya in Sri Lanka (one garden I did not know), via Lutyens in New Delhi (left), to the Parc Andre Citroen in Paris. All the gardens are still in existence and are shown predominantly in their current form, weakening the book's value as a historical survey.

But this is not an ambitious book; its strength is that what it does, it does well. The format is simple and the presentation good. Apart from the occasional misplaced caption, nothing grates. It is a desirable object, and even the serious historian might value the chance to jump from one garden to another in a single volume. This book could prompt you to study, to travel - or even to start digging.

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