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Entries in Rob Procter (1)


Passionate Gardening: Book Review for

Passionate Gardening: Good Advice for Challenging Climates, Lauren Springer and Rob Procter, Fulcrum Press

The concept of the Westerner in American culture, conjures up the image of a friendly and unpretentious person. That explains the feeling one gets when reading this book. Not only is the style of writing informal but also, the gardens illustrated are bereft of the formality we often see and read about in British garden books. More than just a book about gardening, this publication is a window into the unabashed joy of getting down and dirty in the garden and the sheer pleasure of the physical energy expended in doing related chores.

The authors’ respective gardens are located in a challenging locale. Gardening in Colorado forced them to adjust their expectations and needs to the extremes of the Western climate. They share with us their experiences and the advice that grew out of dealing with a harsh climate. To understand the authors’ take on gardening, one needs to understand the obstacles they tried to overcome. These challenges included heat, drought, hail, blizzards, clay, sand, weeds, slugs, grasshoppers and raccoons.

This book is a collection of no less than one hundred and sixteen short essays, or mini topics. It is not a “how to” book. Each essay covers a different aspect of gardening in a challenging climate and is dedicated to discussing the topic from the point of view of two friendly Western gardeners. It is the charm of the authors that makes this book such an enjoyable read; they have a lot of fun doing what they love.

I was pleasantly astonished to discover that the authors chose to address the eternal problem of the rude visitor. Gardeners who visit the homes of their peers are prone to making inappropriate comments related to the host’s garden. The authors’ treatment of this topic is serious stuff and forced me to reconsider every comment I have ever made to owners of gardens I have visited

Studying the many photographs of the authors’ terrains, it is clear that Ms. Springer gardens on a large tract of land. Because her home is situated on one hundred and fifteen acres, she has the luxury of allowing her gardens to grow exponentially with a total disregard for boundaries. Mr. Proctor’s home is located on one acre of land, and the floral compositions on his property are more disciplined. While Ms. Springer’s garden is devoid of any straight lines, Mr. Proctor’s gardens are defined by them. Photos of their respective lands indicate that despite the differences in their size, both gardens are in harmony with the rugged nature of Colorado.

By reading their essays, I discovered several bits of information that I  found to be helpful. Here area few, some in the authors' own words.:-

* Local variations in temperature and rainfall will sometimes allow us to grow plants not recommended for our growing zone.

* Garden one up man ship is a pervasive problem everywhere. There ought to be a book of etiquette on how to behave when visiting other people’s garden.

* Clay can be useful, if properly used. Several perennials thrive in clay. These include sedum, coreopsis, perovskia, veronica, and the list goes on.

* There is no such thing as an instant garden. A perennial garden takes time to develop and knit together.

* Geography matters. Most perennials come from climates different than our own; zone hardiness alone will not determine the success of growing a plant. The more we know about a plant’s native habitat, the better we can adapt it to our garden

* Flower borders can thrive in hot dry summers. All borders need to be stuffed with plants and all of the plants in one border need to share the same cultural requirements. Furthermore, borders need depth to create drama.

*Some herbs make excellent growing companions for roses because of their insect repellant properties

*In a vast meadow garden, plants chosen for their untamed appeal make the transition from flower bed to the surrounding countryside a more graceful one

And finally, my favorite essay is titled ‘The Summertime Blues” and discusses the invaluable contribution that blue foliage and flowers make to any garden. Once again, in the authors own words, because they say it better than I have ever seen it said before: -

“Blue is an amazing color, seemingly effective with every other hue. It’s elegant with white, pale pink and cream. It shimmers with silver and chartreuse leaves. It glows with fiery orange or scarlet and smolders with maroon and blood red.”

Other essays that fill this book deal with diverse garden related topics as hand care, essential garden tools, what to wear when getting dirty, gardening when pregnant, pets in the garden, and plants that make the land look awesome in winter.

Reading this publication has been more than an informational exercise. I am happy to have met two new friends who have invited me into their gardens and made me feel welcome with their proverbial warm Western hospitality.