As a fan of both Noel Kingsbury and Piet Oudolf, pre-ordering this book was a no-brainer. But the "real thing" has been far and away more than I could have anticipated in a gardening reference.
First, it was exciting to see several of my own planting combos shown here - to see that ideas that I came about on my own just by experimenting in our gardens were used by such esteemed designers gave my little plot some welcome credibility and gave me some positive feedback for my own gardening aesthetic. What was especially helpful was to see how I could enhance these groupings with the addition of another plant I would not have thought of on my own.
The plant performance chapter and the chapter on groupings have post-its marking them as they are invaluable. They provide critical information for being able to plan what to plant together and knowing the plant is going to look like during all 4 seasons, how it may spread, what you can expect in terms of performance, etc.
This is not a basic how to nor a book you sit down and read from cover to cover. This is a book that sits on your nightstand and that you use as a gardening planning and reference guide, day after day, and my guess is, season after season. I find myself walking through the garden, book in hand, looking at different beds in our garden and exploring new options for making them better. Or I will lie in bed, reviewing photos of the garden and comparing my amateur efforts with the designs in the book. There is no shortage of ideas, the photos are spectacular, and the information is a gardener's dream.
My one regret is that this book wasn't available in 2003 when I was designing my own gardens. It would have been immensely helpful to have had the benefit of much of this information then. However, I am understanding even better why some things worked and others didn't, and how to make things that I have been struggling with even better.
This is not a basic guide, bit for someone who is a serious gardener with some room to plant some serious beds, it's a definite "must have" on your reference shelf.