Monday, October 22, 2018


As I started thinking about getting ready for holiday guests and Thanksgiving feasts, I realized that I had a pile of books on our dining room table that were there to remind me to write about them.  It's a pile that's been slowly but steadily growing for quite some time now - and I was somewhere between shocked and dismayed to realize that, in that pile, I had amassed 6 books with gardening as their theme.

So I've pulled them out and arranged them in the order that I read them, in the process realizing that one book had been added to the pile without my actually having read it.  Oops.  Wrong pile.  (Yes, sadly, I have many piles of books around the house.)  So let me get busy with the first of the remaining 5 books in my dining room table pile.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts on Garden Revolution, by Larry Weaner and Thomas Christopher, Timber Press, 2016, which I read about a year ago, in November 2017.....

Subtitled "How our landscapes can be a source of environmental change",  Garden Revolution truly amazed me.  I've been interested in gardening for and with wildlife for decades now and I have read a lot on the subject.  I am deeply interested in the environment and in ecology.  Not surprisingly, I've done a lot of hands-on gardening and landscaping for wildlife over the years.  Native plants are my "go to" species in planting my yard and its individual gardens.  Truthfully, it's rare for me to find a book with a really new spin or a new series of concepts on any of these subjects - but that's exactly the sort of book I found as I delved into Garden Revolution.

Larry Weaner is a landscape designer who specializes in ecological restoration AND fine garden design.  One of his early insights as he worked in garden design was "...a traditional garden is like a beautiful car with no engine.  The body is sleek, the interior is plush, and the stereo sounds great, but the owner will always need to push it up the hills with bags of fertilizer, weeding forks, and watering wands."  Weaner works WITH nature, in truly amazing ways, to develop beautiful, continually changing, living landscapes.

Working with nature....  What, exactly, do I mean by that?  Before, I've always just meant avoiding pesticides and using native plants, while trying to match the plant species to its preferred growing conditions and hopefully creating habitat for wildlife.  Weaner takes it so much further.  He pays attention to the seeds found in the "seed bank" that is present in every soil, adds in seeds for species that will help succession move in preferred directions, plants small clumps of wildflowers as seed sources to allow for natural spread, and has many other techniques to nudge natural processes in ways helpful to gardeners and landscapers.

Presented in large format with lots of photos, Garden Revolution at first gives off a vibe almost like a "coffeetable book", but it's much more than that.  There is background information, both historical and biological, presented conversationally so that it doesn't overwhelm.  From Weaner's decades of work, there are examples of gardens from large estates to small suburban gardens, discussed in the text as well as illustrated by gorgeous photography.

Using aggressive native species to outcompete problematic invasive species.  Planning and planting for seasonal and successional niches instead of just planting a "once in time" landscape plan.  Cutting weeds off just below the surface instead of pulling them out by the roots and disturbing the soil.  The new ways of thinking about garden design, preparation, planting, and maintenance just keep coming in this book.

Want to help nature and our planet's ecosystems in a very basic, personal, and satisfying way?  Want to help yourself have a thriving landscape with less work?   Want to attract wildlife to your surroundings?  Read this book.  You'll be glad you did.

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