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Book Review: Five-Plant Gardens

Five plant GardensOne of the most difficult things about gardening is choosing good plant combinations. The gardener has to consider growing conditions as well as such factors as the bloom time, color, texture, shape, and size of the plants. In her book, Five-Plant Gardens, author Nancy Ondra presents fifty different garden plans each composed of five kinds of plants that look good growing together in the same soil and light conditions. The plants are all relatively familiar perennials that have a wide tolerance and are fairly easy to grow.

The plans are divided into two groups: those for full sun to partial shade, and those for partial to full shade. Within each major group themes are explored such as different color schemes, seasonal interest, challenging sites such as slopes wet soil, and coastal conditions, as well as special interests such as fragrance, cut flowers, and attracting butterflies or birds. The entry for each of the fifty two themes describes the five perennials with hardiness information and suggestions for alternate plants, and includes a photograph, a labeled planting plan with the number of plants indicated, ideas for use of the plan, an artist’s rendition of the plan, and a season by season guide for maintaining the plan.

The fifty two plans covers a lot of the needs and wants that interest most gardeners. The text is clearly written and the ideas solid and doable. The artist rendition of the gardens seems a bit optimistic in some cases and a photograph of the garden would probably be more helpful. In addition, some of the alternate plants suggested seem odd; for example, it is hard to imagine that marsh marigold would play the same role in a garden as dwarf goat’s beard when they are so different in texture. Still, the book is a great aid to gardener’s like me who struggle with putting together good plant combinations.

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