26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Olga van Saane
- Published on Amazon.com
First of all, I want to apologize for the fact that never in a hundred years I can write a book review as grand as Jake Hobson’s. Or the one by Anne Wareham, Thomas Rainer, Noel Kingsbury and practically any other person with native English and better understanding of the subject. So, I’m absolutely aware, that the new book “The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden” by Roy Diblik deserves better. Better English, deeper insights and louder cheer than mine. I assume these all will follow, and many well-deserved reviews will be written, by critics and by readers, because it cannot be any other way.
The book’s too good to be unnoticed.
It’s in many ways a mind-changing book. I’ve just finished reading, the book is still on my desk, its pages covered with my notes and some are even dog-eared. This dog-earing thing I haven’t done since high school, which probably means something. Being deeply touched? Provoked? Excited? Inspired? Well, all of the above.
What I’m about to share with you is my personal impression, as a reader and as a gardener.
Well, every time when I’m about to read a garden-related book I wonder if it might be one of those: yet another gardening guide (read: nothing new), a dreamy literary essay with barefoot wandering in the dew (too personal), a piece of landscape theory written in physician tongues (too far from real dirt), or a gizmo, selling one-size-fits-all ready-made solutions (naaah, baby-food).
That’s why I’m thrilled every time I come across a book, which has all the goodness of the above genres without becoming any of them. A new kind. I'd call it - the next generation of gardening books.
Just what “The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden” is.
First of all, it’s all about - new. New thinking, new instrument, new type of gardening. It thoroughly introduces Know Maintenance formula to the perennial garden. Even with a few years of circulation the concept is still a novelty to a common gardener or even a common garden designer. For many of them I’m sure the book will be a real eye-opener.
Another thing that I like about Roy Diblik’s book is the way how the KM* formula is introduced.
The sections of the book form some kind of a virtual ladder for the gardener’s mind to climb and evolve. Chapter by chapter Roy gives his reader a hand, and pulls him up to the next step, and next step, without rushing or missing a point. Imagine, you read on, you follow, draw, photograph, you go and stare at your backyard, make more coffee, read on again, make notes, and your garden is changing in your mind. Your mind’s changing, too. From a desperate gardener watching a miserable patch dressed entirely in mulch, with a few sickly looking plants you’ve been trying to keep alive as hard as they were trying to die, – you're changing into someone who enjoys the lush beauty of a garden, and that without a terrible waste of money, a sore back or early grey hair.
That’s the dream, which is growing along, as you’re reading this book. You learn how to be a different gardener. From a section about understanding your garden and plants you move on to the site preparation and planting; from reading about key plants (74!) and their role in easy care and maintenance you arrive to study sample garden plans (62!). You, being so generously provided with the new knowledge, now can attempt to create your own plant communities, while being inspired by the effort to create and maintain remarkable gardens, in the reference section about Roy's colleagues: outstanding gardeners and horticulturalists.
The way how the book’s structured separates it from hundreds of gimmicky garden books: the timing of provided solutions is impeccable. The ready-made plans are almost at the end of the book, when the process of thinking has already begun and one’s individual evolution became unstoppable. The previous sections help to build up knowledge, so you can understand how Roy Diblik matrix works; you now can “read” it as a musician reads a score. The garden scores are designed to get you a solid start, with the plants arranged in most efficient partnership. Take it from there, use thoughtfully, as an applied science, introduce new elements and create your own effective planting schemes.
These garden plans for sun and for shade are thoroughly explained. They contain detailed maintenance notes and useful remarks. This is where Diblik’s 30 years of studying, growing, and being passionate about plants really shows. In fact, the whole book is a fantastic plant guide, taken to another level.
Other thing about the sample plans is that they evoke a strong aesthetic connection between visual art, design and landscape, offering to ponder planting schemes inspired by Pissarro, Van Gogh, Bonnard, the Essence of Piet Oudolf, the High Line and many more. The plans for shade are showcasing colour, structure, substance, texture – altogether it’s a true master class on garden design, with an innovative “Know Maintenance” approach to planting.
In short, it’s a perfectly balanced piece of writing, appealing to both professionals and garden owners. It’s also a very pleasant prose, it gets you from the very first page, with a dedication to Mom. As the narration goes, you almost hear Roy talking (like he talks in YouTube videos), and you feel like hanging over his shoulder as he leads you through his gardens. The book is full of musings, thoughts and wisdom, but without being a gardening sermon. It’s also a book very beautiful, very artistic, even poetic, but without a pale violet fluff.
One thing I still need to mention to non-American readers. Before reading the book, be aware - it’s written with an American garden and gardener in mind, terminology-wise. Which means, that “garden” in Roy’s book, is in fact, a herbaceous border, herbaceous perennial planting. It’s different from the European use of the word, but once it’s clear, non-American reader will wonder no further where the trees and shrubs are in these garden plans. This reader will also very quickly realize how beautifully volume, rhythm and dynamics in such a border can be created with the use of various perennials.
To wrap it up: I know the gardeners of the world (especially the beginners) often chase their dream of a beautiful garden, seeking inspiration from the Internet, unfortunately overloaded with pictures of neat gardens in “American style”(mulch, mulchier, the mulchiest). I wish those gardeners stopped replicating bad, dead-born, outdated planting. I wish they read the book, learn better, and skipping over the whole “lost generation” of gardens facing the past, started creating gardens facing the future.
P.S. Inspired by the book, I had just planned a section of my garden - a long border in the shady area – to be replanted from scratch, with “Know Maintenance” formula in mind. Having tried and tested borders, inspired years ago by Oudolf's matrix, I am now into the next planting adventure. Learning, like gardening, never stops.