Garden Diary - March 2019

If you have any comments, observations, or questions about what you read here, remember you can always Contact Me

All content included on this site such as text, graphics and images is protected by U.S and international copyright law.
The compilation of all content on this site is the exclusive property of the site copyright holder.


Discover the Perfect Plant for Every Place in Your Garden
a book review

Friday, 22 March 2019

A friend in Connecticut had a wonderful perennial border. I'd even go so far as to upgrade the name to "herbaceous border." Flowering began with daffodils and tulips amid the emerging foliage of peonies, Siberian iris, and daylilies which, in turn, added colorful flowers to the scene. As time went on the border aged. And so did my friend. Garden maintenance became more of a chore. Wisely, she chose to remove the majority of perennials and replaced them with shrubs. Still colorful, still interesting, and much less work. Sound good? I can see your head nodding, but you need more help than a stroll down the rows of a garden center.

image courtesy Timber Press, copyright Andy McIndoe

Shrubs, by Andy McIndoe might be the answer to help with choosing
and effectively using shrubs in your garden. The sub-title is, after all,
Discover the Perfect Plant for Every Place in Your Garden

There are any number of books about shrubs for the garden. They tend to take an A-to-Z encyclopedic approach. Reading through the alphabetical presentation you read about something wonderful, only to discover it won't do for you. Your garden has a limiting factor - it might be shady, or has clay soil, or another issue. It then becomes a matter of looking for a suitable list in the appendices, flipping pages back and forth to cull out which shrubs might work for your situation.

Andy McIndoe takes a different approach with Shrubs. After first deciding what is a shrub (it has variations, depending on whether you are a botanist, a horticulturalist, garden designer, nursery professional, or gardener) he explains just what makes shrubs such a good choice. Another few pages on choosing for seasons of interest and desirable characteristics plus personal preference.

For the most part of the book there are separate sections that present the options for the different conditions with which every gardener must cope, beginning with shrubs for challenging conditions. These vary from shade to exposed and coastal conditions, wet and compacted soil including clay and new construction, alkaline and chalk or acid soils, hot and dry, to harsh winters. "But" you say, "how is that different from a list in the appendix?" It is simple.

image courtesy Timber Press, copyright Andy McIndoe
Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' is a workhorse, tolerant of shade, best in full sun,
it receives kudos for its "flamboyant display." Easy care too, just prune hard in late winter.

For each condition, an A-to-Z selection of shrubs receives an image and a description. Two shrubs to a page means a necessarily concise description and a quarter page image. Given the very diverse selection of shrubs it is impressive that all except 5 images are by the author. Most images are excellent, a few others are less useful. Andy McIndoe gardens in Hampshire, UK. The shrubs are presented with their Latin name, height and spread in metric with feet / inches in parentheses, UK hardiness zone and also USDA zones.

While the book's focus is - not surprisingly - about the shrubby plant category there is the occasional detour into companion plants, planting partners as McIndoe sometimes likes to refer to them. These plants also have their pictures. Most are small, some are full page. I would have preferred such full page space given to garden scenes or shrub-and-companion images such as the one of

image courtesy Timber Press, copyright Andy McIndoe
Cornus alba 'Sibirica Variegata' with Allium christophii, helpful to readers
who might not be familiar with both plants and benefit by seeing the duo.

I wonder if Andy McIndoe may be at work on another book , one about perennials with an add-in of some few shrubs with which they might partner.

Shrubs are charming as soon as planted. It is once they have settled in, had a year or two or more to grow that they truly reward the gardener who chose them as an addition to the garden. Whether shrub or perennial, we tend to look for flowers first. I was glad to see the suggestion of a few evergreens with winter interest, berried shrubs, autumn color such as this

image courtesy Timber Press, copyright Andy McIndoe
full page image of Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' in
an autumn landscape. What a lovely possibility.

image courtesy Timber Press, copyright Andy McIndoe
Or this landscape with several shrubs, a sweep of lawn, and a pond.
It shows shrubs stabilizing the pond bank, another topic mentioned.

Not everything here requires a sweeping landscape in a mild winter area. There are shrubs for harsh winters. Mention is made of shrubs suitable for containers, that might be brought indoors or into a greenhouse for the winter.

Shrubs: Discover the Perfect Plant for Every Place in Your Garden has a useful format, grouping shrubs by specification rather than abelia through yucca. Look first at the section that most closely relates to your situation. Perhaps then page through shrubs to grow as trees, quick-growing shrubs, shrubs with fragrant flowers. There is a section about shrubs to attract wildlife, primarily bees, butterflies, birds, with one mentioned for small mammals. Followed by - what else, deer- and rabbit-resistant shrubs. Most sections have suggestions for herbaceous planting companions.

And remember, as I saw at Linden Hill Gardens earlier this month,
when you prune your shrubs there's more than roses to place in an arrangement.

Shrubs, by Andy McIndoe
published by Timber Press, Portland, Oregon 97204, 2018
Hard cover, color images throughout, $32.95
ISBN 9781604697674

A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher

Back to Top

Back to March 2019

Back to the main Diary Page