Landscape architects struggle with some of the same creative tensions as architects do: where to find design inspiration, how to get out of a compositional rut, how to cultivate sensitivity to a site’s unique characteristics. W. Gary Smith’s new book, From Art to Landscape: Unleashing Creativity in Garden Design (Timber Press, $39.95), is a lively, colorful look at how he channels his inner artist.

Smith—known for his work on botanical and public gardens such as Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa., Winterthur in Delaware, and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center children’s garden in Austin, Texas—devotes the first part of the book to developing the artist’s eye. One fascinating chapter explains how he builds a visual vocabulary by abstracting the patterns in nature: radial, mosaic, serpentine, and so on. Part two explains how these ideas have shaped his practice. In one example, 325 bundled grasses, set upright in a naturalistic drift pattern, bring random order to a sprawling rock garden.

“I want to be in a garden where I stop and say, ‘Wow, what made them do that? What made them put those things together?’” he writes. “If I’m having that kind of response, I know I’m in a garden where my own creative spirit has been engaged.”

With this latest release, architects can compare notes, perhaps find new ways to loosen the muse, or just enjoy the abstract artistry of Smith’s lyrical gardens, sketches, plans, and paintings.