Designers: Two books you really can't do without -- and two that would make a fabulous holiday gift for any designer or sophisticated gardener on your list.
Landscape architect Thomas Rainer is well-known to most of us through his very thoughtful, popular and instructive blog, Grounded Design. But now, Rainer has teamed up with designer Claudia West in an extraordinary guide to sustainable landscaping. In Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes (Timber Press, 2015), Rainer and West explain in detail how and why natural plant communities survive in nature -- and how we can use those principles to create beautiful, ecologically sound gardens in any urban or suburban locale.
In the preface to the book, Rainer notes that the wild landscapes he knew as a child have been lost to development. But the authors take the optimistic view that the front lines of the battle for nature are now in "our backyards, medians, parking lots, and elementary schools." The book is dedicated to anyone who can influence a small patch of land.
According to the authors, the "new nature" embraces exotic species as well as native plants because they are "naturally adapted to environments similar to our man-made landscapes."
Rainer and West outline the major principles of designed plant communities (including stress as an asset!); examine the dynamics of wild plant communities; spell out the new design process they advocate; and describe how to install and manage designed plant communities.
Beautiful photographs of layered plant communities accompany the text and clearly illustrate the principles of this new type of design. The book is a guide, an inspiration, and essential reading for anyone interested in sustainable design.
And if gardening as pure pleasure is your desire, you'll definitely want to spend some time with The Art of Gardening: Design Inspiration and Innovative Planting Techniques from Chanticleer (Timber Press, 2015), by R. William Thomas and the gardeners at this storied landscape in Wayne, Pennsylvania. Anyone who's ever visited Chanticleer will never forget it: it's a dazzling garden, filled with extraordinary art, sculpture, and plantings. It's a historic landscape dating back to the early 20th century, but it only opened to the public in 1993 after the death of owner Adolph Rosengarten Jr. While the original terraces by landscape architect Thomas Sears remain intact, there are now a series of garden rooms that are an inspiration to any gardener.
As the writers note, the designers of this garden have taken advantage of Chanticleer's many microclimates, creating diverse landscapes throughout the 48 acre site: the gravel garden planted with species that require little water; the Parking Lot Garden with low-maintenance plants; the Long Border with exuberant perennials; native plants in Bell's Woodland; and eye-popping containers up near the house.
Absolutely fabulous photos by Rob Cardillo accompany the text. If you've ever or never been to Chanticleer, this book is a must for anyone open to the sheer possibilities of gardening.