Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Harrowsmith's Gardener's Guide

In Bernard Jackson's chapter on woodland gardens, he champions the tree as the most essential part of any shade garden. Trees can be microcosms for birds, insects, and small animals and are beneficial to humans also. While they cast varying degrees of shade depending on the species, there is an abundance of plants that amicably coexist under them. Trailing arbutus and wood anemone do well planted near deep shade but not in it. The old standbys such as bleeding heart and columbine thrive where they receive some morning sunshine. Dappled shade, where light pierces the tree canopy and provides a mellow atmosphere for primroses and violets, is one of the best mediums for gardeners to work in.

Trees and shrubs that cast a deep shade should be trimmed and clipped to allow some light to penetrate here and there and Jackson gives tips for doing this properly. As well, he advises clearly how to provide the maintenance that is so important to the life of your garden. For example, he tells readers how to prune and deadhead (remove wilted flowers) to get a healthier crop of plants in the spring; and how to provide optimum conditions for moisture - loving shade plants. Consistent watering and application of organic matter will have beautiful rewards. The writer makes a good case against cleaning up leaf mould, for the practice robs trees and plants of necessary nutrients and is detrimental to their health. Warning that gardening in shady places can become a challenging lifelong habit, Jackson says that plain experimentation and trial and error are the best tools for any interested gardener. The final chapter of Shade Gardens concerns specific plants for shady areas. For those who wish to know what and where to plant, there are myriad recommendations by a panel of experts from all over Canada. These plan "biographies" give planting advice along with care and variety names and information on where the species do well in Canada. There is also a small listing of mail - order nurseries and seed houses along with specific books concerning shade gardening.

This is a wonderfully put together book for anyone who enjoys gardening and wishes to beautify those impossible areas where nothing seems to grow. There is a sense of affection for plants, flowers, and trees in this volume. Its authors leave readers with the feeling that gardeners are the real creators of beauty.

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