Garden Revolution

Garden-RevolutionGarden Revolution reinforces what we’ve been told again and again—and thankfully are beginning to heed—that as garden makers, we need to pay attention to the local ecology. But perhaps the revolution of the title is the notion that we adopt this approach not solely because it’s good for the planet but because it’s “easier and far more rewarding to transform the human landscape in this fashion.”

Landscapes are far from static. Maturing trees cast shade, shrubs elbow out companion perennials, and groundcovers, well, cover. If you’ve ever tried to stop time and fix a garden picture—or hurry it forward to maturity for that matter—you know only too well how arduous and ultimately futile the effort can be.

The authors’ perspective—more cooperation, less dominion—is most welcome. What a relief it is to be encouraged to accommodate and welcome a garden’s ever-changing nature. The passage of time introduces mystery, excitement, and a sense of discovery—even in a small garden like mine.

The book begins by reacquainting readers with natural systems long in place. The book is in Weaner’s voice and in this section he pays respect to mentors, innovators, and adventuresome horticulturists bucking long-accepted past practices: biologists, nurserymen, landscape architects, ecologists, and climatologists.

The following section adopts an approach that’s more design choreography than static landscape composition. Hardworking chapters deal with site analysis, integrating local ecology, and assembling a “synergistic” plant list. Spotlighting ephemeral moments like shifting light, seasonal bloom, the animation of birds and other wildlife, or blazing fall leaf color, are addressed as well. Focusing on these elements in addition to layout and plant placement invites the gardener, homeowner, and even casual visitors to the garden to savor each unique moment in the always-changing landscape.

Throughout the book, practical content is presented alongside anecdotal planting examples—like the story of two northern red oaks, one a 12-foot tree raised in a commercial nursery, dug, and trucked through several states before being installed in a residential property, the other, a chipmunk’s buried acorn that sprouted in Weaner’s nearby home landscape that same year. Spoiler alert: several years later the naturally recruited tree was bigger and more robust. I don’t think that the authors are suggesting we let chipmunks handle our tree planting, but their observations and analysis open our eyes and invite us to adopt an approach that can be deeply meaningful and filled with “surprises and revelatory events.”