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.