Many consider Druse to be one of the original gurus of gardening in concert with nature. And perhaps more than most of us, he has had to face the very real consequences of a changing climate. In recent years his New Jersey garden has suffered a series of climatic assaults—record flooding, heat waves, freak ice storms, and shifting bloom cycles that upset seasonal displays yet always seem to favor more weeds.
After more than 20 years and with 19 titles to his credit, Druse has our attention. Ever wonder what the difference is between light shade, filtered light, and medium shade? Or full shade and woodland shade for that matter. Druse provides clear working definitions that underpin his text and supplies the language for creating dynamic planting combinations that shift and morph with the seasons.
His description of the natural anatomy of a woodland helps readers understand the interrelatedness of plants grown in community. Extensive lists organized by plant type—trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, and bulbs—furnish both new and experienced shade gardeners with the elements to successfully create unique compositions in their own backyard.
Topical plant lists are arranged by genus, bloom season, and growing conditions—including that most challenging of gardens—dry shade. Druse suggests working with, not against, the natural rhythms of light and rainfall and advocates for a shift toward planting for a late-winter, early-spring bloom peak. A tactic that reveals his penchant for springtime ephemerals that put on a show before deciduous trees leaf out and winter rains dry up.
And you don’t clean up from that many seasonal calamities without picking up a few tips for creating successful and resilient shade gardens along the way. Chapter 6: “Practical Help for Making a Shade Garden” covers soil, drainage, constructing garden beds, propagation, and planting up containers (hypertufa recipe included!).
The New Shade Garden is a title for today and tomorrow. Beautiful photos belie an artist’s eye while the knowledgeable yet friendly text reveals a plantsman’s passion for great variety. And we would all do well to heed this seasoned gardener and observant environmentalist’s parting advice: plant trees, create permeable pathways, reduce lawn, conserve water, explore native plants, tolerate more critters, and manage resources wisely. Oh… “And please turn out the lights when you leave the room.”
Lorene Edwards Forkner, editor