Is there any gardener that would not like a nonstop garden? That is, one that provides year round beauty. Of course, we all would and authors Stephanie Cohen and Jennifer Benner have written a book to make this possible using easy to grow plants that ensure success. By following their guidelines, a gardener can jumpstart the gardening process and find success without suffering the many failures that usually accompany planning and establishing a garden.
The basic idea behind the nonstop garden is diversity and the book focuses on creating mixed borders that include both woody and herbaceous plants. Part One of the text introduces the reader to the advantages of plant diversity and then proceeds on to a presentation of design strategies, or “tools for success”, as the authors call them. Special attention is given to choosing the right plants so that the garden does not look “ like it was designed in a blender.” The authors are careful to recommend, however, to leave space for the “If I can have it, I’m going to die” plants that inevitably ends up in the shopper’s cart.
The bulk of the book deals with the plants themselves; trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs, annuals, tropicals, edibles and vines. For each group, outstanding examples that have been proven to be reliable and relatively easy to grow are described including information on hardiness zones, peak season, light and soil requirements, and outstanding features. Recommendations for outstanding varieties and cultivars are also included. Throughout the chapters on specific plants, photographs and garden plans are provided that suggest ways of using the plants in pleasing and effective combinations. Some of the plans address special site problems such as dryness, wetness and shade, while others offer ideas for theme gardens such as wildflowers, a gold garden, and fragrance garden.
The final section deals with embellishments such as ornaments, containers, and structures. The authors offer lots of suggestions for sprucing up the garden in various ways to make it attractive during all seasons. Since a garden is a place to enjoy a good book as well as peace and quiet, why not paint an old bench with bright colors that will light up the garden all year? Use a container to fill a hole in a garden beds when a plant fades or dies. Give a vertical lift to the garden with a free standing tuteur or indulge in some beautiful paving to enhance the beauty underfoot. Once you read these suggestions by the authors, your own creativity and ideas will flow.
The authors’ quick, energetic style of writing exudes enthusiasm and optimism and inspires confidence. The many garden plans and concrete suggestions for plant combinations provide inspiration for new and seasoned gardeners alike. Color photographs and drawings bring the planting guides to life and add to the excitement generated by the text. But be forewarned, the nonstop garden involves a lot of work, year after year. It may not be as labor intensive as many other kinds of gardens but it is certainly not maintenance-free. If you like to dig, plant, and fertilize as well as plan and design, this book can be a great companion and spur you along the creative process with down to earth guidelines and suggestions.