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LessLawn Editor's Review of Plant-Driven Design
November 17, 2009 by Evelyn J. Hadden

Lauren Springer Ogden (author of The Undaunted Garden) and her husband Scott Ogden (author of other regional gardening books as well) combine their talents for design, photography, and writing in the 284-page Timber Press offering Plant-Driven Design: Creating Gardens That Honor Plants, Place, and Spirit.

The most thought-provoking, comprehensive, and beautifully written book I've read on landscaping in drier climates, Plant-Driven Design reveals (and revels in) the unique character of drylands - their geography climate, and flora - and clearly explains how to make a garden that suits this character.

The Ogdens' passionate and opinionated treaty on honoring the spirit of dry places merges natural history with a design manual. The book offers a superb collection of color photos that illustrate the beauty and variety of dryland gardens and wild places. It is rich with lists of plants for use in different situations, such as "Plants for between Stepping Stones" and "Companions to Bold Succulents and Fiber Plants." The final chapter profiles a handful of actual dryland gardens that reflect the authors' concepts and philosophy.

Perhaps most exciting are the pages that explore different types of natural places such as steppes, dry meadows, and alpine communities as models for dryland gardens.

Giving a framework and context to these concrete design tools is the eloquent, nutritious prose. The voice is strikingly poetic and will delight those who love language. It may be a bit wordy for folks who are used to slick detective novels and sound-bites; such splendid profusion of words, ideas, opinions, and information does take time and focus to digest.

But the reassuring details of garden design history, the anecdotes about particular design choices (including mistakes), and the sheer weight of experience behind the authors' unwavering admonishments combine to produce a powerful message: dryland gardeners need to understand and embrace their unique situation and garden accordingly.

Note that the title of this book is somewhat misleading. Though it contains much to interest thoughtful gardeners everywhere, it is entirely focused on garden-making in regions that receive less than 25 inches of annual precipitation.

"The vast swaths of greenery composed of lawns, shade trees, and shrub plantings traditionally used to create reposed need to be questioned in these regions, not only culturally but aesthetically," write the Ogdens. "Serenity can be interpreted as panels of tawny grasses interwoven with perennials, or water-thrifty plants more silver and blue than green in color, combined with stone or gravel. Beds and borders ususally expected to be filled to the gills with lush, leafy plants can in turn make use of wider spacing with rocks or grasses or architectural succulent and fiber plants interspersed amid the floral melee, whether in formal patterns or naturalistically."

Amazon info for this book:

Plant-Driven Design: Creating Gardens That Honor Plants, Place, and Spirit

Related info at LessLawn: Eco-friendly Gardening in Arid Climates

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