Since it is the weekend between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I thought I would give a gift idea for a gardener in your life. There are several great garden related books I have read this year. Among them, one of my favorites is The Living Landscape* by Doug Tallamy and Richard Darke.
I heard Douglas Tallamy speak at a Native Plant Conference this Spring, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting his new book since.
As a professional gardener at a top US Japanese garden, as well the writer of a garden blog focused on creating your garden sanctuary, I don’t grow only native plants. In fact long ago, I was one of those turned off by the whole native plant movement.
I have gradually over the years been turned into a convert. I now fully recognize the value of including native plants in the landscape. It was Doug’s monumentally important book Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, Updated and Expanded* that solidified my evolving views of how and why I should be pursuing my career and calling.
His new book is lives up to his last.
The Living Landscape
If his first book made the case for using native plants in the landscape, this book shows you how in a general sense. This is not a “paint by number book” for creating a native landscape, but it is a broad and detailed covering of how and why it can be done. This also is not a dumb down book for the beginning gardener. By the same token, I can’t imagine a better first book for someone looking to begin landscaping their home to read.
I recommend it without reservation.
Doug’s coauthor, Rick Darke (author of “The American Woodland Garden: Capturing the Spirit of the Deciduous Forest“*) brings not only his writing voice but also his excellent photography. Don’t get me wrong this is a heady book with some pretty in depth concepts, but it also features an abundance of beautiful pictures. So much in fact, it almost qualifies as a Coffee table book.
Chapter 1 – Layers in the Wild Landscapes
This 74 page chapter covers looking at wild landscapes through the view of the different layers in the garden. Not only the vertical layers of the woodland but also horizontal layers where different landscape types meet and layers through time. It was a ironic that the day I posted a blog post on layers in the woodland, that I received this book in the mail that explained the concept I was trying to communicate in a more in depth way.
Chapter 2 – The Community of Living Organisms
This 15 page chapters basically sums up most of the important concepts of the 1st half of “Bringing Nature Home”. It will be a worthwhile review for those who have read that book, while readers who have not should read it slowly and take in the important message it presents.
Chapter 3 – The Ecological functions of the Garden
11 pages. Another short but important chapter. It helps to broaden our view of how our landscapes can provide benefits other than just looking pretty. It covers topics such as species conservation, carbon sequestration, moderating temperature, watershed protection, air filtration, etc.
Chapter 4 – The Art of Observation
This 10 page chapter could be better in my mind. I like the color examples given, but I feel more depth and breadth of this topic could be covered. It is still worthwhile to most readers.
Chapter 5 – Applying Layers to the Home Garden
This massive 156 page chapter is the meat of the book. It’s for people wanting examples on how the concepts in the book apply to their landscapes. There are lots of examples and beautiful pictures of applying the information in the 1st chapter to the author’s landscapes. Again, it does NOT give Step by Step instructions so some people may be disappointed here. There is enough meat in the examples, that practical advice can be extracted and applied to your landscape. It may take a bit of study though.
The last part of the book may be the most helpful for some people. It includes a listing of plants and their different benefits and uses by region in the US. The Regions are Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Southwest, Midwest and Mountain states, Pacific Northwest, and New England. These lists mostly cover natives, but some include exotic plants mainly to point out those that provide little value to our ecosystems. Overall the lists are good but I have a few comments about specific regions.
Mid-Atlantic – This is the only one that is personally done by the authors. The other regions were written by other experts. This region gets the most detail and if I lived in this region I would be thrilled by the detail of this list.
Midwest and Mountain states (hmm, Indiana and Colorado has same plant list?) – This list was written by an author of a book on Ohio birds. It looks pretty accurate and detailed for those of us in the Midwest. I am not quite so sure I would be happy with this information if I lived in the Mountain states.
Overall this is a fantastic follow up to Bringing Nature home. It definitely stands on it’s own. If it is viewed as an extension of that book, it is a lovely and worthwhile addition to any gardener or landscaper, or just anyone interested in preserving our living landscape.