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Entries in Adrian Bloom (2)


Bloom's Best Perennials and Grasses: Book Review for

Bloom’s Best Perennials and Grasses, Adrian Bloom, Timber Press

At last, a book for gardeners who are overwhelmed by the huge size of iconic estates, when they study them for design inspiration. Adrian Bloom understands the predicament; he is a reliable mentor for the do-it-yourself gardener. In this book, he acknowledges that it is impossible to scale down an estate garden to fit a suburban plot or to copy a prairie, meadow, or wildflower garden in a small garden space. Instead, Mr. Bloom advises readers to use the famous gardens only as a source of learning for plant use and combinations. His publication contains a wealth of illustrations that demonstrate how one can create lush gardens of any size while using a select, pre-determined group of perennials and grasses.

The author’ premise is that gardeners should work only with reliable plants. One is grateful to Mr. Bloom for sifting through over 8,000 species and cultivars of perennials and ornamental grasses to create a collection of 400 plants, which he then distills down into 12 essential ones. All recommended plants have proven to be timeless, best performing, and reliable in both the UK and the USA.

The reader is also encouraged to include woody plants and shrubs into landscapes, to enhance the garden with year round visual interest. According to the author, these plants are critical to the success of a garden, because they supply continuity, formality, focal points, and backgrounds; they balance out the seasonal transformations that perennials and grasses display.

To say that this book is lavishly illustrated is to beat an old metaphor to death; but that is exactly what the author has done. Image after image of successful, easy to copy, plant compositions fill each page. By including images of plant combinations in realistic settings, and by giving us not one but two and sometimes three garden designs to a page, the author has created a publication that one might call a page turner, because each image is more inspiring than the one that precedes it.

The book divides conveniently into six segments: five chapters plus an in-depth directory of plants that surpasses the combined previous five chapters in size. The first chapter illustrates the author’s main theme that plants need shrubs to enhance them. Chapter 2 is a pictorial essay on how a combination of both perennials and grasses enhance gardens. Because the choice of plants can be overwhelming, in Chapter 3 the author narrows down the vast number of plants to twelve. Chapter 4 deals with the history, origin, and growing conditions of plants because the author believes that understanding what a plant needs is essential to achieving success. Chapter 5 discusses the systematic process to follow in creating and maintaining a garden. Finally, the book ends with a plant directory that is a cornucopia of information about four hundred reliable plants, a feature that happens to be this reviewer’s favorite section. The photos are beautiful and inspiring, the information is clear and interesting, and the advice is timeless.

Adrian Bloom has accumulated over a half century of experience as a nurseryman and hands-on gardener. He is past owner of the world-renowned Blooms of Bressingham nursery in the UK, and appeared on the television program BBC Gardening World. He is also the recipient of the Victorian Medal of Honor from The Royal Horticultural Society. In America, Mr. Bloom appeared on the PBS television program The Victory Garden and received a Medal of Honor from the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.

The author belongs to a new generation of horticulturalists who have embraced a style of modernity in the garden that is neither cold nor minimalist. All of the images that Mr. Bloom has collected for this publication have a lush meadow spirit where ornamental grasses are abundant among the perennials. What sets these gardens apart, from traditional romantic ones, is the luminosity captured in the grass plumes, the rich, bold, and earthy colors of the flowers, and the sensuous textures of the foliage. Readers, who are looking for design elements that are both contemporary and warm, will be inspired by the forward-looking garden ideas in this book. The plants suggested may be traditional but the gardens are not.



A Garden That Commits; a Show Garden from the Chelsea Flower Show

Image courtesy of A.P.L.D.Here is an example of a Garden That Commits. I first learned about this concept garden from Whitney Freeman-Kemp, of Connecticut, USA, in January 2010, when she blogged about it at the site of the Association of Professional Landscape Designer. According to Ms. Freeman-Kemp, gardens that commit are identified as having “..a strong and clean motif or colors that are emphasized or go for broke….These gardens you will love or you will hate. But the ones that you will love you will never forget.”

Gardens That Commit, are also known as show gardens, and they are intended to, literally, stop traffic. While several of these can be seen on Whitney’s blog, the garden I feature here is the one that riveted my attention. It is titled “The Daily Telegraph Garden” and was designed by Tom Stuart-Smith for the Chelsea Flower Show, in the UK, in 2006. There, it won a gold medal and a Best in Show Award. In this garden, modern geometry combines with a postmodern approach to material handling. Rusted copper colored steel sheeting serves as a background wall while weathered oak and stones cover the  floors. It is a minimalist contemporary garden, planted in the spirit of a prairie, meadow or steppe garden.

All of the images posted here are different perspectives of the same garden. They demonstrate a masterful and abundant use of, flowers, ornamental grasses, and material handling. To understand how the designer created this garden, it helps to know that it is composed of four layers: - The first consists of two staggered groups of Viburnum rhytidfophylium that frame the view into the garden and that provide height. The image at the top of this post demonstrates the use of Viburnum.

Image via second layer is made up of a hedge of Carpinus betulus [similar to Fagus sylvatica] planted on two sides of the garden and alternating with the rusted steel panels.




Image via hedges that under-plant the Viburnum make up the third layer.


Image via fourth layer consists of a flower composition using 44 perennials. The theme governing the choice of flowers is drought tolerant plants, in shades of rust, blue, purple, white, and grey.


Image via drought tolerance, the designer used  Iris Germanica, Knautia, Ornamental grasses, Salvia , Stachys, and Verbascum, and Ornamental Grasses. Scroll back to the top of this page to see how the designer incorporated the grasses into the master plan. the 44 perennials used, the rust color is supplied by Anemanthele lessoniana, deep red Astrantia, Euphorbia griffithi, Geum coppertone, and Geum georgenburg.  The dramatic use of soft blues and purples, balances out the earthy copper. This is achieved by using Geranium Phillipe Vapelle, and Nepeta Walker’s Low. trifoliate and Orlaya grandiflora supply a dash of white.

 color balances out the metal motif with the use of Stachys byzantina and Verbascum bombyciferum.





Landscape designer Andrew Fisher Tomlin of London, UK, commented on the concept of Gardens That Commit by reminding readers that a show garden’s strong theme is more suitable for public places than residential gardens. Designers intend such gardens to look superb for the brief period of a show. They do not plan them for private grounds, unless the park or estate can contain the garden’s energy, without overpowering the rest of the landscape. Adrian Bloom, in his newly published book, Blooms Best Perennials and Grasses, reminds us that, unlike show gardens with a short life, actual gardens, with year round interest and an intended longevity, require strategic planning from a more realistic point of view.

I chose to share Mr. Stuart-Smith’s Chelsea 2006 show garden with my readers merely for the visual entertainment it provides. Gardeners that have experimented with their own bold color combinations, understand the challenge of making these gardens aesthetically sustainable over time.


The following sites were helpful in illustrating this post.