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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Entries in grasses (2)


A Review of “Perennial Meadows”- a Six-Volume eBook Publication by Michael King

One of the most innovative evolutions in landscaping has been the introduction of the perennial meadow. This concept is one of several natural outgrowths of the debate about the role of large expanses of grass lawns. Now that water is recognized as a precious resource, the decorative, often useless lawn has been determined by some to be an anachronism; its need for frequent irrigation can no longer be justified. Furthermore, researchers are reporting that fertilizers, necessary to sustain lush, green lawns, are accumulating in our water tables and affecting the integrity of aquatic wildlife. And let us not forget that the liberal application of toxic herbicides, to keep lawns weed-free, is adversely affecting all living things, including humans.

Michael King proposes self-sustaining perennial meadows as an alternative to lawns and high maintenance flower beds. His six-eBook series, a beautifully written and lushly illustrated instructional, is the culmination of years of experimentation and work. The versatility of this publication lies in the fact that the author’s advice will work for readers who need to landscape a large field or meadow as well as those who garden in small urban yards.

This attractive gardening concept represents a revolutionary way of thinking about landscaping, because unlike other traditional garden treatments that focus on trees and shrubs, here flowers and color are emphasized. As a perennial garden lover, this form of innovative landscape design could not make me happier.

Gardeners who tend to perennials and who are concerned about the work that traditional flower beds require need not worry about the perennial meadow. The author explains that by selecting very specific plants and placing them in particular matrices, beautiful contemporary gardens, which do not require endless maintenance, may be created. In his words:

…to create colour filled spaces…… spectacular garden features that fit into modest-sized contemporary gardens and which do not require endless labour to keep them growing and looking good…….My perennial meadows are created with densely planted pot-grown plants that can be set into an infinitely flexible arrangement of beds and borders to cover anything from a small patch of soil in a city centre courtyard to a field in open countryside. They are attractive from the moment they are planted, becoming bolder and more complex as they establish and, when successful, will be attractive in all seasons thereafter….. The major part of this series of books consists of planting recipes that combine appropriate plants into effective naturalistic planting associations.

This six-book series is being offered to the public as eBooks, in the hope of reaching as wide an audience as possible. Readers should not feel intimidated by the phrase “six books”. In a hard copy, each of these eBooks would make up an easily digestible, yet all encompassing, chapter on one of the aspects associated with the creation of perennial meadow gardens. Here is the list of the six eBooks that are available in this series:-

  • 01 Introduction - Perennial Meadows
  • 02 Prairie Perennial Meadows
  • 03 Dry Steppe Perennial Meadows
  • 04 Open Perennial Meadows
  • 05 Wet Perennial Meadows
  • 06 Shady Perennial Meadows

There is wisdom in offering the publication as 6 separate eBooks. Professional gardeners will benefit from owning all six, while private gardeners need only purchase the introductory volume plus the one other that is applicable to their very specific growing condition.

Do not be misled by the title "Introduction"; it is nothing like the traditional introduction found at the beginning of a hard copy book. This volume is the first chapter of an education, for here is where the author explains in great detail what perennial meadows are all about and how they can be realized.

For each of the different kinds of garden situations, the author supplies a planting scheme along with a detailed list of appropriate plants. Those who are struggling to create beautiful and colorful gardens in challenging conditions will be pleased with the list of appropriate, attractive, and reliable perennials. This fountain of advice is enriched with a suggested planting matrix that enhances the appearance of the recommended plants.

In addition, a list of complementary plants is provided for each garden situation. Making up less than 25% of the plants used, they offer visual interest when viewing the garden up close and also serve to demarcate different “rooms” of the garden. Space allocated to such plants may also be used to plant unintended flowers that we fall in love with, on impulse.

One of the strengths of the author's perennial meadow gardens is the restricted use of plant pallets. This discipline of focusing on a theme creates a bold, visual impact while giving the impression of spaciousness, even in the small garden setting. Also included in Mr. King's guidelines is a suggestion to avoid using highly bred, fussy cultivars and to opt instead for tougher varieties that are virtually maintenance free. The author's love for flowers and color is reflected in the sumptuous photographs that illustrate each book. For this reviewer, the impact of the photos alone is enough to justify purchasing the series.

The electronic publishing of gardening books is a novel way of disseminating information. On behalf of the author, I am happy to help introduce this technological innovation by referring readers to his site where the first three volumes are now available. Books 04 and 05 will be ready at the end of March 2011 and book 06 will be offered a few weeks later. The price of each eBook is 4.99 Euros or about US$6.95

Followers of this blog are eligible for a 25% discount by using the discount code SAVE25 - interested readers may click on to


A Dutch-Influenced Garden: The Millennium at Pensthorpe by Piet Oudolf

Readers who have seen the book review of Designing with Plants, posted here on July 12, 2010, may already know that Piet Oudolf is one of my favorite garden designers. Yet, it is unlikely that I will ever have a landscape-as-canvas vast enough to emulate his work. What he has created can never be duplicated in the urban or suburban flower beds of my clients’ gardens. Oudolf’s work requires parklands, meadows or fields. Fortunately, there are plenty of open spaces around the world, managed or owned by visionaries, who have already invited Mr. Oudolf, a native of the Netherlands, to work his magic on their land.

Just the other day, Hermes, who blogs at Gardens of a Golden Afternoon, came across a photo essay of Dutch-influenced gardens; some designed by Oudolf, others inspired by his style. This collection of images was originally posted at the marvelous website of the Telegraph, an online version of The London Daily Telegraph, a British newspaper that supports the garden designs industry in a significant manner. From that collection, I have selected the above photograph, by Alamy, to share with my readers. It is known as the Millennium Garden, spans one acre, and is one of three gardens located in Pensthorpe, a wildlife and nature preserve in Norfolk, England. The parkland is open to the public and sells plants of all flowers that grow there. Orders are also taken for sold out varieties which are shipped to visitors when they become available.

After discovering the pictures posted by Hermes, I stumbled upon additiional images of this same garden. The photos below, taken by Andrew Lawson, have been used to illustrate an article of the Telegraph and the official site of Readers may click on any of the images on this page to link to the accredited sources.


The planting scheme of the Millennium Garden is predominantly maroon, purple and russet. Plants used include Echinacea, Monarda, Astrantia, Bronze Fennel, Astilbe, Aster and Vernonia; intermingled with a variety of golden grasses such as Deschampsia. In all, about 100 different species of perennials and over 20 types of grasses have been used. The plants are set off by tracts of open water, and explored by winding paths.

Horticultural travelers to the UK now get “more bang for their buck”. In addition to visiting the traditional English gardens, that are challenging to re create in North America, they can also study English based but Dutch-influenced gardens, planted with flowers and grasses more suitable for our climate.