Photo credit: Pamela Hall
Planting in a Post-Wild World by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West is a dense book, one that I will return to again and again for direction, information, and inspiration. The subtitle is “Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes,” and it’s not for the faint of heart or for those that believe the color wheel should reign in the garden. Indeed, the word “garden” has been replaced by “plant communities.” Plant communities appear natural and relate to their surroundings, soils, and topography in ways that conventional gardens often do not. Within the plant communities, the plants relate to each other the same way they would in a wild landscape, even if some of them are not native to the place in which they are used. Because the plants relate well to each other and are well adapted to their landscape, they create a harmonious whole that fulfills ecological functions and requires management, but not maintenance. Do not think that this book is over the head of an average gardener—the writing is straightforward and generously illustrated with photographs and diagrams. It discusses design principles, has detailed analyses of wild landscapes, a nicely structured discussion of the design process, and lots of practical advice on creating and managing a plant community. Finally, there is a reflection on each of three gardens that use the principles, including a very conventional parterre garden. For those who want a wildish plant community without incurring the wrath of the neighbors, there are plenty of tips. Doug Tallamy, author of The Living Landscape (with Rick Darke) and Bringing Nature Home says, “This is the universal how-to guide to sustainable landscaping we have all been waiting for. A masterful accomplishment.” Truer words have never been written.
~Written by Martey Costello, Penn State Master Gardener in Berks County