Most helpful critical review
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Good book for armchair detectives.
on 10 September 2013
The book opens by stating it's not meant to be a series of recipes for perfect planting.... Unfortunately, a recipe book was exactly what I was hoping for! This book is laid out in the conventional sections of trees & shrubs, perennials, annuals, bulbs etc, with expanded sections for certain plants, e. g. roses. Each plant is then described and photographed with a handy guide to the range of conditions it will tolerate. A list of possible companions is then provided and this is where the trouble starts. The companion plants cover the entire range of the conditions the first plant tolerates, so you find a nice plant that will tolerate your partially shaded alkaline flower bed and then have to eliminate all the possible companions that need full sun or acid soil. And just to make to job more long winded, not all of the companions are actually featured in the book, so you have to go to an outside resource to find out they're not suitable for your conditions. Very frustrating!
I would much prefer a book which is divided by conditions, deep shade, partial shade, etc and then subdivided by moist or dry soil, acid to alkaline, exposed to sheltered and so on. I might only end up with only one recommendation for my difficult border, but at least it would form a solid base that would thrive and look good that I could get started on.
This book is enjoyable for browsing, does contain useful information and has lots of nice photos to look at (although the photographs do tend to emphasise contrasting schemes, rather than complimentary schemes, which I prefer.) I have spent many hours nosing through the book and I've enjoyed it, but it hasn't helped me to replant my difficult front border.
It's definitely a book for the armchair detectives who want to do a lot of extra research and careful planning. It's not a book for people who want a simple solution, to get their hands dirty and see a result.
Finally, the photographs are nearly all close ups of two or three plants together to show flower colour, leaf shape etc in close proximity. But this doesn't give an impression of what they would actually look like in a border, which is generally viewed from several feet away!
This book will work for some people, and it's as enjoyable as browsing through plant catalogues, but it's not a recipe book of planting schemes, so if that's what you're seeking or have a problem area to solve, you may be better off with something else.