Book of the Month for Feb 2017

Rock Gardening - Reimagining a Classic Style
Len Lehman

Rock Gardening - Reimagining a Classic Style by Joseph Tychonievich, Timber Press, 2016, 296 pp.  $34.95 list, $17.96 Amazon.

Joe Tychonievich recently spoke to our Alleghany chapter and mentioned that he was in the process of publishing a new book on rock gardening. Well, that book is now available, and what a wonderful addition it is to the sparse landscape of books elaborating on our favorite style of working with plants. Joe is a talented writer and the book flows nicely from various examples of rock gardens to construction and planting techniques to twenty suggested plants that all rock gardeners, from entry-level starters to old veterans can grow.

In the first section, the author describes various forms of rock gardens and the photographs in the book are particularly praiseworthy. The gardens range from small private gardens to large public gardens and I especially like the first person approach, as he personally visited all of the gardens he describes. His comments on design are excellent. The next section, techniques, contains valuable suggestions on building, maintaining and care of plants. I enjoyed his insights on topics like "should you hire a designer?”, "siting" and "soils", in which he provides great suggestions for cultivating alkaline and acid loving plants. Joe's take on climatic conditions, including environmental factors like hardiness, humidity, and winter and spring wet and snow cover offers sound solutions to dealing with these factors. The section on suggested plants is well balanced between common and easily obtainable species and those that one can obtain only through garden society seed lists. He notes the reason these are good for rock gardens and describes why they are a valuable addition to the area. Finally, a series of appendices listing metric conversions, material sources, and plant societies fills in needed information for those who want to dig deeper. Sadly, not all pages are numbered and when using the index it is sometimes difficult to find information if it is on an un-numbered page.

This is a book that should be on every rock gardener’s bookshelf, be they newbie or old salt. The information will be useable to those at all levels of gardening expertise.

Len Lehman is a member of the Alleghany Chapter and a retired teacher of biological sciences. He loves all types of gardening but rock gardening and seed starting are his favorite categories. Favorite plants are Primulas, bulbous plants and native wildflowers.