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hester Schilliger

Hester has kindly offered one lucky reader a copy of the book! Read below for competition.

Most everyone knows of Hester Macdonald. She not only voices her way into your life via the radio, but also runs her own garden design company HM Garden Design, as well as the Swiss Gardening School, and provides guided tours for the garden at the Château de Prangins. Mother of two, she is an empty-nester and is always on the lookout for a challenge. Is this her next baby? Gardens Schweiz/Suisse/Switzerland, a 52-page delight for the eyes, the senses, and the emotions is a must-have for anyone with a passion for the neat, the natural, and the unusual. The only thing missing would be the wonderful scents these gardens release... in the early morning, baking in the afternoon sun, or at rest at dusk. Switzerland has many of the world’s finest gardens. British garden expert Hester Macdonald features 52 of them in her new book. Gardens Schweiz/Suisse/Switzerland is the first multilingual guide to Swiss gardens to date.

We asked Hester to give us some background on this new venture and here is what she said:

What prompted you to do this book?
I'd visited lots of amazing gardens in Switzerland, I thought they were easily as good as many famous gardens I'd visited elsewhere in Europe, and thought it was time that Swiss gardens were recognised in their own right as a reason to visit Switzerland. I also wanted to to help them become better known for people living in and around Switzerland, who may not know that there was a gem of a garden, waiting to be discovered, right on their doorstep! I was introduced to Richard Harvell of Bergli Books, by Ian Smith at WRS, and Richard loved the idea of doing a book about Swiss gardens from the start.

Did you comb through every garden or were you invited?
I had already visited dozens of gardens, for my radio show Dig It, over the years, so I already had a significant number of great gardens I wanted to include. I then asked advice from colleagues, friends, other gardeners, in person, and via various FaceBook pages, as to which gardens they thought warranted a visit. I made a huge list, grouped by area, and tried to visit them all. Some were amazing, some were disappointing, and I also revisited gardens that I had liked previously. For some of the gardens, I went "officially", because I was going to interview the head gardener or the curator or creator, and for some of the gardens, I was just a member of the public, who asked some pretty specific questions!

What was the biggest obstacle you came across when preparing the book?
The biggest obstacle was making sure all the photographs were good enough, and fitted together thematically, or illustrated the garden well, or actually fitted onto the page. I knew our format would make using panoramic photographs really difficult, for example, and although the ones we were sent were beautiful, we just couldn't use them without editing them a lot. Most of the gardens, however, already had professional-quality photographs that they were happy for us to use. Amazingly, many of them were taken on a cellphone, not a "proper" camera, as the quality is good enough these days for publication!

Have you been working on this idea forever, or was it something that came to you recently?
I'd been visiting the gardens for about 10 years, and vaguely been talking about doing a book about Swiss gardens, but it wasn't until I attended one of Debra Moffitt's excellent "Just Write" workshops that the idea crystallised in my mind and I started actively pursuing it.

Why 52 gardens?
One a week!

Are you going to do another edition or a follow up?
I'd love to do another book, perhaps about alpine gardens, as there are so many, perhaps combining hiking, another of my favourite pastimes. I have previously discussed and thought about a book on private gardens, but although they are lovely to look at and get ideas from, I find it a bit frustrating that I, as a reader, can't visit them myself, so I would need to figure out how to get round that problem. Ticino has dozens of beautiful gardens, and we couldn't include them all in the book, and I'd like to spend more time in that region, practice my newly-acquired Italian, and maybe write about them!

What are your future plans?
I always have dozens of ideas for what I'd like to do next, my restrictions are only time and energy for making them happen! I'd like to put together some guided tours of Swiss gardens, to show them off at their best. I would like to write about Swiss gardens in British and American magazines, to encourage garden visitors to see beyond the cows and cuckoo clocks, and come here to enjoy them. I'll be putting some new courses in place for the Swiss Gardening School, having taken a break to get the book written and launched, for this spring and autumn, including some in French too. I'll keep broadcasting for WRS, and designing gardens, and working as a garden guide at the Chateau de Prangins, too. As activities, they may seem quite varied and diffuse, but at their heart they are all connected with gardens and gardening.

Gardens Cover Press

Did you take any of the photos in the book?
Yes, I took about a third of the pictures in the book. The rest came from professional photographers and the gardens themselves, and they are wonderful!

Do you have a favourite garden in the book? And if so, would you tell our readers why you chose it?
I have lots of favourites, but the one that has the most interest year-round and the quirkiest and most engaging "personality" has to be the Diable Vert garden in Bex. It's owned by Dominique and Magali Mottet, and they have, over the years, created the most unique and extraordinary garden that I think I have ever visited. You'll find a miniature Giverny, a chessboard of ornamental grasses, kinetic artworks, fairies, hobbit houses, a healing garden, a stunning rose garden in a perfect spiral, and much more. It only costs Fr. 5.- to visit and well-behaved dogs are welcome. There is a tea room with homemade cakes, and a warm welcome from Dominique and Magali. It's quite unlike anywhere else. 


Back cover

Gardens Schweiz/Suisse/Switzerland
From the delicate alpine gardens of Schynige Platte in the Bernese Oberland, to the island paradise of Isole di Brissago on Lago Maggiore, no country of comparable size can compete with the sheer diversity of Swiss gardens. From Zurich’s industrial MFO Park to the formal Château de Gruyères to Geneva’s otherworldly Le Jardin d'Amandolier, Switzerland’s garden-makers are masters of inventive design and planting and they are also extremely generous: the best are open to the public, often at no charge!

British garden expert and radio host Hester Macdonald, a long-time resident of the Geneva area, features fifty of the best in her new book Gardens Schweiz/Suisse/Switzerland. In addition to more than a hundred lush photographs by some of Switzerland’s best plant photographers, and descriptions in English, German and French, the book features visitor information on all fifty gardens, as well as short essays on many of Switzerland’s gardening curiosities.

About Hester Macdonald
With a British horticultural qualification from the RHS, she founded HM Garden Design in the greater Geneva area in 2004. Winner of the Concours Laurent Perrier Prix du Jury in 2009, she is definitely qualified to bring the best of British design to your doorstep.

Hester explains, "I believe in combining my passion and pragmatism to make the most of your outdoor space. From the initial concept work through to the finished garden, I’m with you every step of the way. I'd have loved to be a bee on a flower when some of the gardens featured in my new book were planted. How exciting to see historical changes through garden design."

She is also co-founder of Swiss Gardening School, gardening courses for amateurs by professionals, which is currently on sabbatical from teaching to concentrate on other projects, such as this book!  Hester has been spreading her knowledge of all things "plant" on a weekly basis on WRS radio, Dig It!, where she talks about gardens, plants, and design for the local community.

competitionbutton1Enter our knowitall.ch competition to give yourself a chance of winning one of the books!  To enter the competition just fill in this form and answer this question: How many gardens are featured in Gardens Schweiz/Suisse/Switzerland

Only one entry per person and per email is allowed. The competition closes at midnight on Monday, 29 April 2019.  The names of all those submitting correct answers will be placed into the digital hat and the winner’s name drawn at random on Tuesday, 30 April 2019. The winner will be notified by email and his/her name will be added to this article after the competition closes.

Book signings in the immediate future

  • Jardins en Fête, Coppet, VD: 10, 11, 12 May 2019
    — conference in French at 14h30 on the Friday. 
  • Basel at the Merian Garten on the 6 June, tickets via contrepoint 

Gardens Schweiz/Suisse/Switzerland, Hester Macdonald
Published by Bergli
Fr. 29.90 free shipping within Switzerland

Also available at Payot, Fnac, Manor, Schilliger, Botanic


CONGRATULATIONS: Sarah Johnson won a copy of Hester's new book!