This is a book that every designer and homeowner has been waiting for -- residential landscapes that are gorgeous, functional, and yet nurture wildlife, deepening the connections between humans and the natural world.
Ecologist and author Doug Tallamy and photographer and author Rick Darke teamed up in a brilliant combination for their latest work, The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden (Timber Press, 2014).
As Darke explains in the preface to the book, the design of ecologically sound, broadly functional gardens that conserve resources "requires a carefully balanced mix of native and non-native plants." He adds that it's time to stop worrying about where plants come from and focus instead on "how they function in today's ecology."
In Chapter One, the authors define and explain what happens in each "layer" of wild landscapes, from the canopy and understory to the ground layer, dynamic and wet edges, meadows and grasslands, and cultural layers such as old farm fields, roads and railways, pastures -- landforms created by human intervention. And you'll definitely want to read how the authors define the term "native," -- a different take on what you might think.
In following chapters, they tackle the special relationships between plants, animals, insects, and humans and explain the vital importance of biodiversity and complex ecosystems.
So, you might ask, how can I apply these concepts in a small or large residential garden? Darke and Tallamy guide you through a process that focuses on using plants to create garden spaces, conserve and attract wildlife, and yet design truly beautiful gardens, formal or informal, that sustain life at every level.
In the back of the book, the authors have lists of plants for different regions around the country, along with ecological and landscape functions for each one. Who knew that Carpinus caroliniana (Ironwood) supports 411 species of caterpillars -- or that Rhus glabra (smooth sumac) is not only grown for its ornamental characteristics (spring flowers, fall color), but also provides food and nestings sites for birds, food for mammals and caterpillars, and cover for other wildlife.
This book shows the way to easy-to-maintain gardens that are splendidly designed for four-season interest and year-round use, yet conserve and protect our ever-precious resources.
Also, check out the websites of Darke and Tallamy for their current speaking schedule.