Book Reviews

Here are two book reviews from Fine Gardening a couple years ago.  Both books are available at the Ashland library. If we get some October rains, planting within the next few weeks would be a good start.  ….Viki
“Wildflowers in Your Garden:  A Gardener’s Guide by Viki Ferreniea.  
This is an uncompromising book that demands from gardeners the same commitment to plants that has motivated the author, a trained horticulturist.  And although Ferreniea writes about North American native plants with an amateur’s exuberant pleasure, she approaches their care and culture with the discipline of a professional, and she expects no less from her readers.  This is not a book for sissies. 
‘Patience and planning,’ she insists.  How dull that sounds to a gardeners who is eagerly awaiting the time when the digging, planting, and nurturing can begin!  But plan you must, and patience you must have, to achieve a successful garden and provide the best conditions for the plants you have been longing to grow. 
She then describes the conditions for growing wildflowers and tells how to create these conditions.  Where other books merely recommend a gritty soil mix for rock garden plants, Ferreniea goes further:  ‘the majority of plants that favor naturally rocky places do so not only because they prefer to have less competition from other plants but also because they need cool root zones, rapid drainage – especially at ground level around their crowns – and full sun for their upper parts.’
Elsewhere, she fathoms the conundrum of moisture-retentive but well-drained soil:  ‘at first, this sounds like a contradiction:  what it is saying, however, is that the plant needs a soil that has enough organic matter (humus, compost, manure and the like) mixed into it to absorb and retain water, and at the same time has enough drainage material (sand, small stones or gravel) in it to allow excess moisture to drain off after the organic matter has soaked up all water it can.’  Now that makes sense. 
Add to this kind of thoroughness a wonderful directory of plant portraits arranged according to the plants’ cultural requirements – easy, intermediate and specialty plants – and their light preferences:  sun or shade; then throw in a number of beautiful photographs by the author along with plans and watercolor sketches often different types of wildflower gardens.  What you end up with is the most comprehensive book of its kind that’s been written to date. “
“The American Mixed Border:  Gardens for All Seasons by Ann Lovejoy.  
Ann Lovejoy is a keen observer who clearly loves plants and who also loves the very process of gardening as well as the changes that a garden can exhibit over the seasons and from year to year.  Lovejoy, who lives not far from Seattle, Washington, thinks Americans need to learn from England’s masterful gardeners, but also that they need to develop their own style, one adapted to their climate and the realities of limited space, time, labor and money.  Her own five-year-old garden on Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound provides many examples of rich, layered, complex combinations of woody and herbaceous plants.  She devotes a chapter each to small trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, vines, grasses and bulbs, and the roles that each one of them can play in the mixed border.
This isn’t a book that one absorbs in just one sitting.  It’s dense with subtle plant combinations for all four seasons.  Lovejoy assumes her readers already know something about gardening but are eager for design ideas to improve what they have.  The design discussion is leavened with horticultural advice, clearly based on firsthand experience.   
An interesting sequence of drawings shows a small section of a border that is on view all year.  A pear tree and a few evergreen shrubs form the backbone.  The informal planting includes 59 different plants, including deciduous shrubs, perennials, annuals, vines, grasses, ground covers, and spring-, summer- and fall – blooming bulbs for foliage and/or flowers from January to December. 
The gardens Lovejoy knows best are located in the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast.  Many of her specific plant recommendations are probably best suited to gardens in those climates, but the design advice, and her way of thinking about borders, can be adapted to all areas.”
Submitted by: Viki Ashford