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Entries in small gardens (4)


Plants That Perform All Season, a book review

Powerhouse Plants, 510 Top Performers for Multi-Season Beauty, Graham Rice, Timber Press,

Graham Rice is an international renowned and respected plantsman with gardening experience on both sides of the Atlantic. He is also an award-winning writer with more than twenty gardening books to his credit.

This latest work reaches out to readers who garden on small plots of land where plants must do double duty because there is room for so few of them. To create beautiful and interesting gardens under these confining conditions, Mr. Rice recommends that we consider using versatile powerhouse plants.

Such plants enhance the design of small gardens because they multi task throughout the growing season. Included in this category are perennials, shrubs, trees, ornamental grasses, vines and ground cover, all of which put on visual performances that last longer than their respective plant tags indicate. They do that by transforming themselves from a flowering summer perennial, for example, into a display of intensely colored fall foliage.

The inherent potential of these versatile players allows the gardener to create different and evolving plant combinations for various times of the year, all the while using a minimum number of plants.

Readers will be delighted that the author’s suggestions are confined to ones that are easy to grow, hardy, and glorious performers. Nothing makes a gardener happier than to discover that a beautiful plant is also a workhorse and that it requires little attention.

In that respect, nature has been very cooperative. Mr. Rice has managed to identify no less than five hundred and ten of these powerhouse plants – each with characteristics that evolve or linger in the garden, and whose beauty and visual interest is sustained long after they have lost one of their salient features.

Such a plant will display at least two of the following attributes: - spring shoots pushing through the soil, fresh unfurling foliage, spring flowers, summer flowers, summer foliage, attractive fruit and berries, evergreen foliage, vibrant colors in the fall, bark, interesting and colorful stems in winter, and winter or spring foliage rosettes.

Of course the above list doesn’t even begin to address other characteristics that a plant make contribute to the garden. These would include form, shape, texture, movement, fragrance, birds, and butterflies. All are qualities that enhance the value of most of the recommended plants in this book.

Gardeners who struggle to maximize the visual appeal of their small gardens will be relieved that there is now a handbook to help make that an easier task. Creative homeowners with larger gardens will also benefit because versatile, all-season, powerhouse plants enrich the appearance of all gardens, regardless of their size.



Vertical Garden Design

There is a new trend developing in horticulture. It is called vertical gardening and it refers to growing plants on walls, either in pots attached to a vertical surface, or directly planted into a growing medium that has been affixed to a wall. Before this new concept was introduced, a vertical garden referred to landscapes planted with design elements that drew the eye upward. Often, such elements help to make a small garden appear larger by tricking the visitor into gazing upward to avoid confronting the physical limits of a small space. Other times, they simply give the eye a rest from the unintended horizontalness that sometimes overtakes a garden’s design. Here is a photo of a bold colored garden arrangement, refreshing in its verticality.  In this composition, columnar evergreens introduce a vertical theme echoed by the spikes of the orange perennial, Kniphofia. The image, used here with written permission, was taken by Jordan Jackson who garden blogs at Metropolitan Gardens. The photo was taken in August 2009 in Regent’s Park at St Andrews Gate. in London. UK.


Pushing the Boundaries of Modern Garden Design; a book review for

Best Garden Design; Practical Inspirations from the RHS Chelsea Flower Show  Chris Young,  Firefly Books

A fascinating aspect about cultural norms is that when they are brought to North America, by immigrants, they tend to reseed themselves and propagate unchanged. This phenomenon has been reported by countless second generation Americans who visit the old country of their grandparents only to discover that it has evolved into a new country, unrecognizable to those who packed up and left from there years before. The remaining inhabitants eventually modernized their way of life, while the émigrés, who settled in America, remained stuck in an old fashioned mind set. today, North Americans continue to embrace the romantic English Garden while many British designers have moved forward. Encouraged by expositions and competitions, they work at the forefront of modernity and are light years ahead of mainstream tastes in America. One of the best examples of this advanced style of garden design may be seen in the submissions to the Royal Horticultural Society, Chelsea Flower Show, where new horticultural and design ideas are presented. Every year, at the end of May, on 11 acres of the grounds of the Royal Hospital in London, The Royal Horticultural Society hosts a forward looking flower show that leaves most visitors breathless. after year, mind boggling, innovative ideas are presented. The audacious use of ultra modern design elements, including the use of aluminum, oxidized steel, glass, or garden rubbish, is outrageously courageous. small show gardens at Chelsea are about equal in size to small urban gardens, measuring 16 x 22 feet, while larger show gardens may reach 30 x 70 feet. Regardless of their dimensions, they are, in fact, temporary stage sets created intentionally to wow the visitor, to showcase the talent of the designers, and to market innovative garden materials. Chelsea show includes all nine styles of gardening. They can be Romantic, Minimalist, Mediterranean, Arabic, Classical, Narrative, Wildlife, Formal, or Magical/Mad. In this book, Mr. Young has compiled an overview of the more interesting installations from the years 2005 to 2009.  Instead of dealing with them chronologically, or by style, he has cleverly grouped them by subject. That way, garden designers looking for inspiration or affirmation about specific design elements, all of which are practical, can use this publication for reference. design topics surveyed and summarized in dedicated chapters are Entrances/ Pathways/ Boundaries, Planting, Outdoor Living, Water, Materials, Sustainability, Productive Gardens, Lighting, and Garden Art. book is richly illustrated with an unusually large number of color photos containing so much detail and beautiful garden shots that, in another era, it might have been produced as a coffee table book.

There are two recurring themes that run through this publication, although they are never mentioned, specifically. They are submitted through the images. One is that small gardens can be spectacularly designed. All it takes is a talented, original thinker who recognizes that traditional conventions are dispensable. The second theme, blatant but silent, is the idea that a lawn is not a requirement. In most of the gardens portrayed, grass is used as trim. Any reader who cannot imagine that a back yard garden can be serviceable and beautiful without a lawn ought to study this book. It is a revelation!

In youth, when we discovered life and the world for the very first time, everything we experienced was exciting and vibrant. Older people, on the contrary, looked upon the younger generation and smiled condescendingly because they had already seen it all before. Well, I am now the older generation and with the help of this book, it has been an exciting experience to discover avant-garde, cutting edge landscaping. I have just seen garden design again for the very first time.



Great Gardens in Small Places: Book Review for 

Great Gardens in Small Spaces by Melba Levick and Karen Dardick, Rizzoli International Publications,

Finally, we have a publication about small gardens that focuses on flowers, colors, and texture. Most of the other literature for this specialty pays attention to hardscapes such as patios, pergolas, pools, decks and focal points. Not this book. Here the emphasis is placed on beautiful tiny oases where plants dominate. This book will take readers on a photographic journey that will inspire them to turn any small plot into a jewel-like work of art.

The essence of designing a small garden, so that it might be attractive and inviting, is so remarkably concise that the author has been able to summarize everything a reader needs to know in only 4 pages of text. The balance of 288 pages is filled with examples of what readers can accomplish by adapting some of the illustrated ideas. Melba Levick is the real star of this publication as the value of the book for gardeners rests on her images. The works of this photographer have been exhibited, published, and licensed internationally for over 20 years. Amazon alone currently sells 28 out of the 45 photographic books to her credit, mostly about architecture, décor, travel, and gardens. The high caliber of images in this publication goes beyond horticultural photography. Each beautiful picture is a pedagogical tool that demonstrates a design technique from an existing, successful, small garden.

Gardeners who do not enjoy reading text will be delighted to see how the theme of this publication plays itself out in images. Over 40 small gardens have been photographed to illustrate the book’s message. While all are located in California, most are adaptable to the North East. The plant varieties and colors used in landscaping are similar to what will grow in colder climates. Included, also, are images of several desert and drought tolerant gardens, sculptural in their brilliant execution, that are meant for home owners located in the South West.

The overall message of the book is that clever ideas contribute to creating beautiful, lush, small gardens. These include: - contrasting colors and contrasting textures, flower pots and urns, raised beds and their strategic location, the use of oversize and bold looking plants, gravel and winding paths, cleverly placed benches, hanging baskets, clouds of ground cover, brimming over paving stones, climbers, terraced beds, gardens divided into rooms, ponds, objects d’arts, arbors, mixing tall and short plants, and the bold use of color to create flamboyant focal points. All of these are details necessary to trick the eye into thinking that a garden is larger than it really is and for creating a comfortable and inviting atmosphere that dispels any feeling of confinement.

The exquisite color photos of 44 gardens also offer readers many choices of style: - romantic, Japanese, hillside, wooded, shade, tropical, simple palette, colorful palette, walled, outdoor rooms, cottage style, Mediterranean, intimate, fragrant, simple, and intriguing. The book offers many inspiring lessons based on the efficient use of space, both above and at ground level, using garden themes and visual chicanery. This publication will become part of my permanent gardening library. Designing small urban gardens used to be a challenging task until I stumbled upon this delightful and inspiring guide.