Can you tell that I am trying to get through all the garden books before the weather improves and I can actually garden?
Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz are garden designers and authors who focus on foliage on their blog, in their landscape work and in their books. Ever since I discovered their blog I have been a fan.
I finally got a copy of their latest book — "Gardening with Foliage First: 127 Dazzling Combinations that Pair the Beauty of Leaves with Flowers, Bark, Berries, and More" — and have been delving deeply into it. Let me just say it's heaven for those of us who do consider foliage first.
The book is divided into two large categories looking at sun and shade combinations by season: spring/summer and fall/winter. The authors begin with an explanation of how to use the book in order to get the most out of it. At the top of every page is a template or key to the growing conditions the plants depicted require: Site, soil, zone and season.
Before you even read the details you can immediately tell if that grouping will work for you or if you should just move on. It's a simple but very smart set-up, making the book a veritable design primer for beginning gardeners. At the same time there are lots of ideas for experienced sophisticated plants people.
The book is published by Timber Press so I don't have to tell you it's beautifully produced and a quality product. But let me say that the book is clever, funny, and very useful. Besides giving specifics on the plants in the combos, the authors provide information on how the design grows as well as the finishing touches that make the whole design sing. That may range from seedheads to sculpture. Each plant combo is also given a title; they're evocative, obvious or a downright scream like "Cherry Garcia" or "Beauty Without the Beast."
Despite the fact that my garden is fairly mature, I found a great many combinations that caught my eye. All of them used plants that I am currently growing but not with the partners the authors suggest. I also discovered a number of plants that are new to me and immediately went on my shopping list.
I was already anticipating the plants that are beginning to appear in the garden, but Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz have me salivating with new possibilities. This spring will definitely see me moving plants at the very least to create a few of their dazzling combinations.
While I think the book is well-worth the $24.95 cover price, it is available in the South Central Wisconsin Library System. Be sure to check Olbrich's Library as well, if you prefer not to buy it.