I am enjoying the new crop of gardening books because most of them no longer masquerade as odes to gardening. Instead, authors and publishers make certain that books on horticulture empower readers to garden successfully. No matter how complex the topic, gardening advice now takes the form of an easily digestible manual, usually integrated into a reader-friendly text. The American Meadow Garden is a bold step in re-defining our outdoor environment. Here is a book that informs and instructs us how to use a meadow garden as an alternative for a lawn. Neat green lawns are becoming an albatross and an anachronism. Evolving lifestyles, shrinking natural resources, and a deepening concern about the chemicals that pollute our water table are causing some horticulturalists to re evaluate the role that lawns play in the quality of our life.
John Greenlee is a respected horticulturalist and writer who suggests using meadow gardens as an alternative to green lawns. This is not the stereotypical meadow with cows grazing. The author presents us with a relatively new concept for North America: a field of ornamental grasses punctuated by naturalized bulbs and native flowering perennials. The design of an urban park, influenced by this principle, already exists at the Lurie Gardens in Chicago. Mr. Greenlee believes that this landscape treatment is far more satisfying than either a lawn or a traditional mixed flower border and that it combines the best attributes of both. Furthermore, he argues, a meadow is more ecology-friendly than a lawn because it consumes fewer resources.
A meadow garden should not intimidate, as it does not need to be all encompassing and expansive. This substitute for a manicured lawn may be small enough to insert into any size garden plan. There it will serves as a place for the eyes to rest, or as a transition between formal garden and the wider landscape..
The scope of information covered by the author is vast yet distilled, so that the reader can learn without becoming overwhelmed. One chapter deals with grasses that work best for landscaping fields. Another chapter discusses the purposefulness of a meadow, because some grasses can be useful in dealing with issues such as slopes, drought, marshlands, and drainage.
A subsequent chapter introduces the art of designing with grasses. Some varieties work better as brushstrokes, others as groundcover, some as filler, and others as a background. In addition, much attention is also devoted to wild flowers and naturalizing bulbs. These plants work well among grasses to add continuous color, throughout the growing season. The last chapters that round out the book include a photo essay on drought tolerant meadow gardens, a user-friendly encyclopedia of grasses, and a chapter on how to undertake a meadow project, complete with a formula for calculating the number of plants needed.
A review of this book would be inadequate if it did not pay tribute to the visuals that illuminate its pages. Saxon Holt is an established and award winning horticultural photographer. The author is fortunate that Mr. Holt has taken a subject, ostensibly still limited in its appeal, and has propelled it into consciousness with photographs that are extraordinary. The luminescence and ethereal texture of the grass meadows captured in these images are a convincing testimonial that such gardens merit serious consideration.
Allan Becker reviews books on garden topics[...].