Many gardeners may consider shrubs second class citizens of their garden but these perennial plants actually have a great deal to offer. Ian Cooke’s book, Shrubs: A Gardener’s Handbook, introduces readers to shrubs and their role as the backbone of any good garden. Working on the premise that shrubs together with trees create the greatest impact in the garden Cooke provides a introduction to the potential of shrubs in the landscape and covers design, cultivation, and propagation of shrub.
Cooke draws on his extensive experience managing the grounds of the University of Nottingham to prove how versatile and significant shrubs are for the gardener. He show how they provide color, texture, and scent to enhance the garden all through the year and are especially important in the winter when the herbaceous perennials and annuals are gone. He emphasizes the fact that there is a shrub for every imaginable location or purpose the right plant for the right place and success depends on choosing the right plant for the right place. After discussing the major kinds of shrubs such as hydrangeas and camellias he proceeds to present thirty less well known shrubs including new introductions such as Cistus hybrid ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ and Potentilla fructicos ‘ Setting Sun’. Chapters on pruning and propagation provide useful and practical information for maintaining and multiplying a shrub collection and include tips on special topics such as how to successfully propagate felty-leaf plants such as Artemesia.
Well illustrated, this book is an excellent introduction to shrubs and their value as landscape plants. It includes the heritage and history of the plants as well as lists of shrubs for special situations. If you are thinking about improving the “bones” of your garden, this is an excellent place to start.