Book of the Month for Oct 2013

Fall & Winter Bloom in the Solar Greenhouse
Reviewer: 
Malcolm McGregor

Fall & Winter Bloom in the Solar Greenhouse, James L. Jones, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (May 29, 2012), 168pp, 10 x 7 inches, softcover; publisher's price: $35.00, Amazon price: $31.50.

This self-published volume by past NARGS president James Jones is written from his long experience and his conversion of heated conservatory and greenhouse to greenhouses heated solely by the sun. Nevertheless, don't be fooled: his "sunhouses" – his term for solar, or unheated, greenhouses – are carefully calculated to provide different winter habitats with three different minimum temperatures

His concentration is on fall and winter flowering plants because, as he says, "For myself, my vision of what I wanted from the sunhouse made the choosing that much the easier: a wintertime complement to the summer garden."

Discussions on rationale, on construction, and on his calendar for his sunhouses, complement an extended listing and discussion of the plants that he recommends – and they are all ones of which he has personal experience. And they are a truly eclectic bunch – Cyclamen rub shoulders with Crassula and Cymbidium, South African Erica and Oxalis, Australian Protea, Lachenalia, rock garden classics such as Morisia monanthos and dwarf Narcissus.

The type size is large and well-spaced. The one problem with the book is the quality of the pictures, which are not as bright as the original photographs deserved. But that quibble aside, this is a genuinely personal account – idiosyncratic and great fun.

Malcolm McGregor is Editor of the Rock Garden Quarterly and resides in the UK.

The New American Landscape: Leading Voices on the Future of Sustainable Gardening
Reviewer: 
Malcolm McGregor

The New American Landscape: Leading Voices on the Future of Sustainable Gardening, Thomas Christopher (editor), Timber Press (April 20, 2011), 256pp, 7¼ x 9¼ inches, 99 color photos, 12 illustrations, hardcover; publisher's price: $34.95, Amazon price: $26.55.

The eleven chapters of this book are each written by different authors and that allows a series of experts to each make their play. This is not a book aimed at rock gardeners, and it is rather hard to work out exactly who the intended audience is.  Perhaps it is primarily addressed to those who participate in the 'American Way of Gardening': challenging accepted norms of vast lawns, wasteful water usage, alien planting, and the like. 

For me, individual chapters got a hold while the book as a whole did not, being too uneven. Chapters on Balancing Natives and Exotics in the Garden, Waterwise Gardens, Green Roofs, Gardening Sustainably with a Changing Climate, and The Sustainable Edible Garden, all attracted my attention, although for me the standout was that on the New American Meadow Garden with its cry of "Why have a bad lawn when you could have a great meadow?"

Some great stuff, nicely produced, well-illustrated, but uneven, so perhaps look before you buy.

Malcolm McGregor is Editor of the Rock Garden Quarterly and resides in the UK.