By Elaine Mills, MG Intern, Class of 2012 & Columbia Pike Branch Library Volunteer
This month’s reviews examine recent Arlington Library acquisitions that deal with alternative plantings for the home garden.
Those who missed Evelyn Hadden’s recent public workshop may want to check out her new book Beautiful No-Mow Yards, which provides inspiration and practical advice for replacing the traditional American lawn. The extensive first section provides numerous suggestions for rethinking a yard, with examples of lawn-free gardens to suit a broad range of sites, tastes, and lifestyles. Possibilities, illustrated with case studies and numerous photographs, include living carpets, shade gardens, meadow and prairie gardens, patios, ponds, and xeric gardens. The second section describes the steps involved in converting a lawn to a garden and presents a variety of methods for removing unwanted plants, such as smothering, tilling, solarizing, and cutting sod. The third section presents a sampling of ground-layer plants divided by growth habit (mounding, mat-forming, fill-in, mingling) and includes perennials, ferns, grasses, and low-growing shrubs.
In The Edible Front Yard, author Ivette Soler invites home owners to create front yards that are sustainable, beautifully designed, organically maintained, and also edible. She begins by introducing the “supermodels,” a group of edibles with a strong visual appeal, such as beans, eggplant, kale, lettuce, peppers, and herbs. Next, she features a chapter on “helpers,” ornamental plants such as agave, junipers, scented geraniums, nicotiana, and sunflowers, all of which can give structure and year-round interest, while at the same time providing flowers for pollinators and leaves for teas. Soler discusses design concepts; presents several garden plans; provides instruction on how to remove sod, concrete, and unwanted plants; and describes how to handle hardscape, privacy, and irrigation. Her final chapters provide guidance on maintaining an edible front yard organically, harvesting, and extending the growing season in an attractive manner.
Why Grow That When You Can Grow This? by Andrew Keys introduces 255 alternatives to everyday problem plants. Gardeners, says the author, sometimes have a sentimental attachment to plants that require unrealistic inputs of time, effort, water, fertilizers, and pesticides. Following the concept of “right plant, right place,” Keys suggests that gardeners consider problem-solving plants which can tolerate seasonal extremes, provide year-round interest, and attract birds and insects to benefit the ecosystem. In a series of chapters on trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, and grasses and groundcovers, he presents several alternatives for each problem plant. For example, Littleleaf Linden, Tupelo, and ‘Marina’ Strawberry Tree are recommended as alternatives for Callery Pear; Eastern Wahoo, Highbush Blueberry, and Fragrant Sumac are suggested in place of Burning Bush. Each alternative is shown in a color photograph, accompanied by details on its character and growth requirements.