Under Western Skies: Visionary Gardens from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast – J. Jewell, C. Atkinson

Under Western Skies is one of the best botanical books I’ve ever read. 

As I already mentioned in a previous review, I own a small array of potted plants and a washed out green thumb. Sometimes miracles happen; the violet that belonged to my grandmother started blooming like a pro last spring, shocking pretty much everyone, but other than that, my success in the gardening departments has always been eh.

Being able to read about gardens, about how other people turned acres of land into beautiful plant sanctuaries is a satisfying experience. An immersive one, and like it always happens with outstanding works, it took me a while to reach the ending.

Why, yes, I savor my books like sommeliers savor their wines.


From windswept deserts to misty seaside hills and verdant valleys, the natural landscapes of the American West offer an astounding variety of climates for gardens. Under Western Skies reveals thirty-six of the most innovative designs—all embracing and celebrating the very soul of the land on which they grow. For the gardeners featured here, nature is the ultimate inspiration rather than something to be dominated, and Under Western Skies shows the strong connection each garden has with its place. Packed with Atkinson’s stunning photographs and illuminated by Jewell’s deep interest in the relationships between people and the spaces they inhabit, Under Western Skies offers page after page of encouraging ingenuity and inventive design for passionate gardeners who call the West home.

412 pages
Timber Press


Cover: So pretty. The color combination is perfect, a taste of what’s hidden between the pages.


  • Under Western Skies, written by Jennifer Jewell, is an ode to plant diversity. Together with photographer Caitlin Atkinson, Jewell covers the whole Western area, from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast, interviewing landscapers and horticulturists, artists and gardners. Each of them opened up their house–or sanctuary, or park, or–and talked about the places they shaped up with time and patience. Do I like every garden featured in Under Western Skies? Well, nope. Has Jewell been able to show me the uniqueness of them, pointing out distinctive traits, what makes them stand out? Yes.  
  • Pictures! There are a lot of pictures, I’m so happy. The care and love all the owners put into their gardens transpire from each photo, and I’ll admit I let out a surprised ‘oh’ more than once, whenever I happened upon a peculiar shot. Some gardens look messy, some tidy; they’re all beautiful. 
  • I have to say that my favorite gardens are the southern, desertic ones. Cactuses and succulents fascinate me to no end, because of their ability to survive – thrive – under extreme conditions. However, the Idaho and Oregon gardens are just as impressive, say. Nature thrives there too, in a different way. Choosing to feature sculptures, a few man-made pieces scattered among the green, is the cherry on top.
  • I love the structure, because other than the places and the plants, we also get to know something about the people. It rounds it up in a nice way, I’m a fan 😀

Special mention:

  • Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona. Saguaros! 
  • Desert Moden, Phoenix, Arizona. Lovely.
  • Radicle Desert, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Noticing a pattern here? 
  • Harborton Hill, Portland, Oregon. The colors!
  • Cougar Annie’s Garden, Vancouver Island, Canada. So peculiar, I love it. 
  • Columbia River Gorge Garden, Hood River, Oregon. Bluestar flowers. You don’t need anything else.
  • Great Salt Lake Valley, Salt Lake City, Utah. I adore the Gambel Oak road.
  • Hog Hill, Sebastopol, California. I’ll be annoying and repetitive, but the colors!


  • Nothing. It’s a long book, there are a lot of pictures, the style is compelling– sometimes even a nitpicker like me can be 100% satisfied.

5 stars on GR, because I can’t give more.

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