Read This: The Cultivated Wild: Gardens and Landscapes by Raymond Jungles


Were a name and profession ever more perfectly matched than those of Raymond Jungles? Like San Francisco nursery owner Flora Grubb and — I kid you not — Austin urologist and vasectomy practitioner Dr. Richard (Dick) Chopp, Miami-based landscape architect Jungles was surely destined to do what he does. Designing plant-rich, tropical and subtropical gardens that bring nature right up to the windows and front door — and even up on the rooftops of high rises and into the plazas of busy shopping districts — Jungles layers native plants into modernist gardens, eschewing minimalism for bold, lushly planted retreats.

Just before Thanksgiving I purchased his third and latest monograph, The Cultivated Wild: Gardens and Landscapes by Raymond Jungles (2015). It tantalizes with 200 pages of eye-candy photos of trickling limestone grottoes, palm-fringed hideaways, and curvaceous swimming pools echoing the sparkling blue sea. Beneath canopies of paddle-like banana leaves and rustling palms, jewel-toned bromeliads stud the understory, smooth-skinned agaves cluster like supersized green flowers, and hummocks of native grasses add pillowy softness. Plants clearly are no afterthought for this landscape architect. They figure prominently in his gardens. So does water. Jungles turns his gardens into watery music boxes, with dripping fountains, lapping pools, and sheeting cascades. Native stone — often, pocked limestone called oolite — grounds his gardens, emerging from the verdant undergrowth like ancient ruins.

The book features 21 gardens, mostly in and around Miami but also in the Bahamas; the West Indies; Monterrey, Mexico; and, surprisingly, New York Botanical Garden and Montana. These include residential gardens, high-rise rooftop gardens, commercial and resort landscaping, and a botanical garden exhibition. Each project is showcased with 10-12 pages of photos and explanatory captions, plus a one-page introduction about site challenges and how the garden is physically experienced. One or two conceptual drawings by Jungles himself are also included for each garden, which are meant to illustrate his creative process. Unfortunately, I found them difficult to decipher, perhaps because they are reproduced at too small a scale for the page. As a layperson, rather than a student of landscape architecture, I would rather have had more photos or descriptive text.

The photos are mouthwatering, with varied views and a nice mix of long shots and close-ups, and the text does a good job of setting the scene, although it’s littered with distracting landscape architecture jargon like “view sheds” and the “programming” of a garden. That quibble aside, the book is a terrific introduction to the gardens of Raymond Jungles for new fans like myself. I first encountered his work when I visited Naples Botanical Garden in Florida, and I’d love to see more. Spring break in Miami, anyone?

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

12 Responses

  1. Adriana says:

    Thanks for this review. I have added it to my list. Do you have any other garden design books to recommend especially for Texas? I need some ideas for my very blank yard.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Adriana, peruse my Book Reviews page, and you’ll find plenty to interest you, I hope. Many books that relate to gardening in the West or the South can work for Texas, depending on your soil type and the kind of garden you’re going for. Specifically check out books by Mary Irish, Sally Wasowski, and Lauren Springer Ogden. —Pam

  2. Wendy Moore says:

    That’s a Spring Break that’s more my speed! ;-) I think I need this book for inspiration! I bought myself ‘The New Shade Garden’ for Christmas and it’s been educational, but also depressing since I’m not seeing much that would survive a Summer in Austin. At least not in my care. :-)

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Wendy, if you love tropicals, you’ll love his gardens. The plants won’t translate to Austin, of course, being largely native to frost-free south Florida or the tropics. But the design ideas can be translated here with drought-tolerant Mediterranean fan palm, dwarf Texas palmetto, native grasses, and the like. And it’s inspiring to see how he relates house to garden. —Pam

      • john says:

        Austin is a wonderful place to build lush gardens. We are almost — in Zone 8 — landscaping the wrong way with azaleas, boxwoods and other old fashioned species. Enjoy the pics.

        • Pam/Digging says:

          Thanks for your comment, John. (Sorry, I don’t allow links to FB photo pages.) You’re right that in Austin various climates come together, giving us opportunities to grow many different kinds of plants and styles of gardens. —Pam

          • john says:

            No problem. I just wanted to educate on what actually grows. Norfolk is very similar to Austin in hardiness. There seems to be a huge gap in what is accepted landscape style with what actually grows/what looks best in our zonal region.

            • Pam/Digging says:

              I do see a lot of palms here in Austin, especially Mediterranean palms that tolerate our alkaline soil. Still, even with similar hardiness zones, our growing conditions vary tremendously, don’t they? Norfolk, VA, has acidic soil, while Austin has alkaline. That’s why azaleas and traditional Old South plants don’t do so well here. Also, Norfolk gets a LOT more rain than Austin — 48 inches annually vs. our 33. Plus, with your seaside location, you have the influence of coastal breezes.

              I always find it fascinating how regions that look like they’d be the same on paper, based on hardiness zone, can be so different in reality. Anyway, thanks for musing with me, and for sharing your enthusiasm for tropicals! —Pam

  3. Kris P says:

    I’ve developed an interest in bromeliads so I may have to check this book out. As it appears that El Nino is finally going to bring us its promised rains, I should have more time for garden books. I look forward to seeing yours soon too! Best wishes for a happy new year Pam!

  4. That’s right up my alley. So interesting to find you reviewing this one — I’m sure I would love it. Having a greenhouse sure does help with growing subtropical plants here in zone 8b – 9a (ish!). Happy New Year.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      As you know, tropicals have never been my thing. But I’ve become intrigued by Jungles’s modernist style since seeing a garden he designed at Naples Botanical Garden. The book did not disappoint! —Pam

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