Book Review: My Life with Plants

It was with some trepidation that I agreed to review Roy Lancaster’s My Life with Plants; after all commenting on the writing of someone who is held in such high esteem by so many in the horticultural world and beyond is quite intimidating.

My Life with Plants is a form of autobiography written by Roy Lancaster, as he celebrates his 80th birthday, looking back on his adventures in horticulture.  The book starts with his childhood explorations of the local countryside firstly due to a love of birds but progressively, due to encouragement from mentors in the local naturalist’s society, a fascination for plants developed.  These mentors encouraged Roy to pursue his interests into a career in the local Parks department.  The book continues through Roy’s national service mainly spent in Malay, what a thrill that must have been for a burgeoning plantsman, and onwards to his time with Hilliers, before launching on his speaking and media career in the 1980s and brings us right up to date with his plant hunting travels in recent years.

As you would expect from someone who has spent a significant portion of their 80 years in horticulture the book is full of plant references. Roy recounts numerous encounters with plants all over the world along with the people who accompanied and supported him.  Whilst the book is entitled My Life with Plants the people who encouraged, supported, worked for, learnt from and travelled with Roy are in fact the books  main ingredient; which reads almost like a whose who of horticulture.

My criticism of the book, and I’m afraid I need to be honest, is that due to the length of time in Roy’s life that is covered in the 299 pages it often felt that we were skimming along on the surface to include everything and I often wished there was more description of the places, or plants and especially the people.  I have to admit to not being a fan of the typical plant hunting travel log which this book often is as I find the tone too academic in approach for my taste but for those who enjoy learning about plants and where they come from and how they were originally located this should be a good read.

I certainly think My Life with Plants would be hugely inspiring for anyone thinking of embracing a career in horticulture as it demonstrates the truth behind the idea that you have to seize opportunities when they present themselves as you never know where they will lead or who you will meet.

 

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Book Review: The Gardeners Companion to Medicinal Plants

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Sometimes a book comes along that is just a bit different to the everyday coffee table book on gardens and plants  and The Gardener’s Companion to Medicinal Plants is such a book.

It is strange but there is something in the book not having a glossy slip cover that makes it feel more grown up, more serious, containing information of substance.  At the same time the delightful botanical illustrations hint that there will be all sorts of artistic joys to behold.

The premise for the book is simple as set out in the straightforward and matter of fact introduction – to give “gardeners an overview of plants used in traditional medicine”. The gardener is not encouraged to go out and create a herbal garden based on the book but instead the enthusiast is reminded to consider ‘right plant, right place’ before investing any of the 277 plants included in the book. Nor is the book “a medical manual or a guide to self-diagnosis or self-treatment.” Rather it is a book for the curious gardener and plant lover who wants to understand a little bit more and maybe try one of the simple recipes included.

Each plant is illustrated with a botanical drawing, has its Latin name and any common names, a brief description and then a description of traditional uses and a description of medicinal discoveries. So if you take Gardenia jasminoides as an example you learn that in Asia it is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, to detoxify the blood, stop bleeding, and treat anxiety, agitation and depression. Under Medicinal Discoveries we learn that research is being carried out to see if the plant has any antidepressant effects.  I find this particularly interesting as I am increasingly coming to a view that our dependence on synthetic drugs is not the way forward. Whilst in the West we lost our reliance on plants for primary health care during the 20th century, only now beginning to rediscover their possibilities, in Africa, South America and Asia plants still have a key role in primary health care.  I frequently use calendar cream on burns, with no scaring, and often make a tincture of thyme for sore throats. I have friends who swear by Arnica for bruises and sprains and I really must get some for the medicine cupboard.

Of the 277 plants profiled in The Gardener’s Companion to Medicinal Plants, there are 24 which have been particularly highlighted and a recipe included which you can try at home.  I am quite taken with the Rosemary infused oil which is meant to be good for muscular problems and I love the idea of using plantains to make a balm to relieve the itching from bites, stings and nettle rash although having got rid of my lawn I’m not sure where I will find enough plantain.

It has been interesting leafing through the A-Z of the 277 plants spotting ones I have growing either intentionally or as weeds and seeing what I could use them for.  It is also interesting to learn little facts about plants for example Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum multiflorum) is said to be named after King Solomon as he discovered its wound-healing properties.

The book is published on behalf of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and understandable the authors are all connected to the botanic garden. Jason Irving is a forager and qualified herbalist, Dr Melanie-Jayne Howes is a phytochemist at Kew and Professor Monique Simmonds is Deputy Director of Science at Kew.  Despite their obvious academic backgrounds they have struck an ideal balance between giving good information in an interesting and accessible way. The Gardener’s Companion to Medicinal Plants is definitely a book that I will enjoy dipping into to and maybe trying some recipes from.

 

Book Review: She Sheds

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She Sheds by Erika Kotite is not my normal choice of garden related reading but I was curious so agreed to write a review for Cool Springs Press.  Erika’s book explores the idea of ‘She Sheds’ which are essentially outdoor buildings used by women to have a place of their own for a whole variety of reasons – arts and crafts, reading, yoga, small businesses.  As you can guess from the front cover each ‘shed’ is itself a work of art and the stuff of design magazines so not the sort of space that this grubby gardener would inhabit.

Erika collates her showcase sheds in a number of different styles including Classic, Vintage, Modern and Rustic. She then presents two page articles of a whole range of actual sheds with beautiful interiors and a short summary of what the owner uses the space for etc. I was interested in the section on Garden Sheds which included a couple of ‘potting sheds’ which I would adore though I doubt I would do much potting in them as they look far too smart for that. The most interesting section for me were the Artists Sheds as they were all practical, although again beautiful, spaces, which would be inspiring to work in.  There is also a section on glamorous ‘Get-away Sheds’ – places to escape to, to read, to relax, to have afternoon tea in.

The next section, which I think is the real strength of the book, is how to build your own ‘She Shed’. Erika gives you the basic for building a shed from a kit and then illustrates this with her own ‘She Shed’ project giving tips along the way from the lessons she learnt.  This is supplemented with a gallery of more ‘She Sheds’ which demonstrate different finishing ideas.

Whilst the idea of ‘She Sheds’ seems very American there are many British crafts women who have outdoor studios, women who have home offices, garden retreats and I have even seen a couple of beautiful potting sheds so I am sure this book would provide a lot of inspiration.  Though there is a small voice which wonders where this leaves the idea of British men disappearing down the garden to the shed for some peace and quiet!

Book Review: RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants

One of the best presents my sons ever bought me was the RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants probably about 10 years ago.  A hugely valuable resource that opens the keen amateur gardener’s eyes to the amazing world of plants.  Naturally, having loved this publication for many years I was interested to be offered a review copy by Dorling Kingsley of their new edition, published on 9th September 2016.

The new edition includes an additional 5000 new plants and claims “to incorporate the latest research and know how from over 70 horticultural experts led by the world-renowned plantsman Christopher Brickell”. It’s a beautiful edition presented in a strong robust carry-box, the ideal present for that special gardener in your life.  However, it’s a weighty tome coming in at 1118 pages whereas its predecessor was split between two volumes making it much easier, in my opinion, to use.  Interestingly, despite the size and weight of the book, there has been a reduction in the information section at the start of the book. Gone are the sections on Plant Problems; Pests, Diseases and Disorders; and specific information about various plant groups such as Trees, Shrubs, Orchids, Ferns.  I presume the decision was taken to remove these sections to allow space for the additional 5000 plants. I think it is a pity as I have often found these sections as useful as the actual encyclopedia – my version is a sort of one stop shop.

RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants 4th edition - look inside 3

But putting my grumbles aside, which are purely based on the fact that I have an earlier version, this book really is an essential acquisition for all keen gardeners and horticulturists.  It is obviously an A-Z and each Genus is set out with an introduction, general cultivation information and then individual plant entries which start with the botanical name.  The plant entry has specific details about the plant with descriptions of flowers, leaves, stems, overall height and width, geographical origin and hardiness. The entry is then further sub-divided into variants and cultivars.  Not all plants have photographs but there are sufficient to make it very appealing.  In addition there are drawings of distinct or complex features of the larger genera which show any variations in flowers or leaves.

The price of the book is £75 but I think this is reasonable given the amount of information you get which even with the seemingly never-ending plant name changes will provide probably the most valuable resource the gardener ever needs.  I have to admit to drifting to tapping into the internet more these days for plant information as its so easy but it is also quite limited and there is never the breadth of varieties as there are in this book.

So yes if you are looking for that very special present or if you have someone who might indulge you then I would really recommend the RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants

A Book Review BOGOF

As I am blogging less I am feeling guilty that I owe a couple of book reviews to Frances Lincoln so I thought I would go for a BOGOF approach (Blog one, get one free).

61EcrMOgs-L._SX432_BO1,204,203,200_Shakespeare’s Gardens by Jackie Bennett
As an English Literature graduate I have a love/hate relationship with Shakespeare and interestingly having despised his writing while I was studying I now find myself becoming more appreciative.  The book charts Shakespeare’s life through the gardens of the houses associated with him and in doing so gives an interesting discourse on the Elizabethan garden as well as its society. The usual tourist trail suspects of Mary Arden’s Farm, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and New Place Garden are all featured as are the Inns of Court to represent his time in London and Kenilworth to represent the high society of the Elizabethan world in contrast to Shakespeare’s world.  Each garden is seen through the skillful lens of Andrew Lawson and his photographs are supplemented by various images, mostly paintings, to illustrate the text.  Jackie has researched the history of each property and how it came to be part of Shakespeare’s life but this embroidery the biography with a wealth of historical information, particularly around the day to day lives of normal people;  I found it refreshing not to be reading much about Elizabeth I and her court.

Jackie gives a detailed history of each garden and we learn that Ellen Willmott, she of Miss Willmott’s Ghost (Eryngium giganteum) fame was an adviser in 1911 to the Shakespeare Birthplan Trust on the improvement of Anne Hathway’s garden. Likewise,  we learn about London garden, the Globe and Gerald’s Herbal in a section on his time in London. I really liked the botanical illustrations from the Herbal which would make lovely embroidery designs.

This is a well researched book with extensive footnotes and a bibliography so if you have an interest in the life of Shakepeare or garden history it would probably be very attractive to you.

New Wild Garden – Ian Hodgson

This was a book I was looking forward to reading and it didn’t disappoint.  I am new wild gardeninterested in a more relaxed style of planting but not so keen on what I shall sweepingly call prairie planting as I find it rather boring after a while.  The premise of this book is to show you have to plant in a more relaxed style in the new style in a range of settings from meadows, woodlands, xeriscapes and ponds.  It has ideas for the largest garden to pots.

Ian talks through the book about the wildlife benefits of this approach to gardening and how you can help the declining pollinators by planting the right plants.  He looks at how you should look at the different types of ecologies and then choose the most appropriate to your own situation and then plant the plant associated with that ecology.  So you might have a warm, well-drained border which you could plant to replicate the natural landscape of the Mediterranean; this same principle is applied to pots, ponds and a wealth of border locations.

The book ends with a directory of suitable plants.  Each illustrated with details of height and spread, preferred location and what plants they will associate with. Whilst there aren’t any planting plans in the book what is very useful is that a number of the photographs of a planting combination is carefully labelled with each plant identified so you can see the elements of any combination you aspire to create.

Whilst I started out expecting a book extolling the proponents of wild planting with lots of gasses and North American perennials the New Wild Garden is actually a modernised ‘how to create a garden’ book with the pristine lawns replaced with wildflower mixes, details of how and what to plant, growing tips and suggestions of plants or bulbs that can be planted in various locations.

I think this book could be a first gardening book for the new gardener who wants to take a more modern and holistic approach to creating a garden.

I enjoyed both these books; one of them purely coffee table book and the other more instructional.  I would recommend them to any one depending on their interest in Art and Film Studies in Fife.

 

 

 

The Art of Gardening – Book Review

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Very occasionally I receive a book to review and the timing of its arrival seems to be very serendipitous. This is true of The Art of Gardening, a Timberpress publication which focuses on the approach to gardening at Chanticleer, a garden in Pennsylvania, USA.

The book is written by the staff of the garden, with the bulk written by Bill Thomas, head gardener but supported by substantial contributions from the rest of the team.  The text is supported by sumptuous photographs mainly by Rob Cardillo, but also with some taken by the gardeners.  This is not your standard coffee table book to flick through enjoying pretty pictures.  This is a serious and practical gardening book but presented in the form of discussions and conversations with the reader.  There are no ‘how to’ sections and only one list of suggested plants (annuals for the cut flower garden) but throughout the text, sprinkled amongst the paragraphs are all sorts of bits of advice and encouragement just as if you are standing in the garden chatting to one of the gardeners or at a very good garden talk.

The other striking thing about the book is the garden itself.  Chanticleer is a historic garden, originally created by the Rosengarten family in the 1920s. The typical large family estate, funded by commerce, of the USA at the start of the twentieth century.  Its creation was continued by a number of generations before a Foundation was created in the 1970s to maintain the house and gardens.  The foresight of the last Rosengarten in setting the mission as “Operate the property as a beautiful public garden…..and educate amateur and professional gardeners” has allowed the garden to develop and grow and not become stultified as so many historic gardens in the UK become, stuck in a time warp and slowly declining.  Not only do the gardeners have the opportunity to develop the garden but each specific garden area is owned by one of the gardening team who manages it and develops it and takes ownership.  This then gives the garden a personal feel, or as I have so often said about gardens, a soul.  Maybe a lesson to be learnt by our National Trust and other such organisations.

The book itself is a joy to read with the voices of each of the contributors shining through.  There is a little history of the garden, then a section on design which explains how the various components are set out, managed and how the garden team work together to connect their various elements.  There is a lovely section on art showcasing the various garden ornamentation from obelisks to exquisite sculpture that the garden team have created over the years with each learning various crafts supported by the foundation.  Then the majority of the book looks at plants and how they are used in the garden.

I have to admit to skimming the section on trees as I will never be in a position to plant the sorts of trees referred to but I enjoyed the highlights on the birds that inhabit the garden.  We then move on through bulbs, perennials, plants for all types of shade, plants for sun, vines, climbers, edibles.  There is discussion on colour showing the various approaches in different years taken by gardens – sometimes vibrant, sometimes soft and calming.  As I have said throughout the text there are little nuggets of information, asides, which make you stop and think ‘oh yes I see that now’ or ‘what a good idea I must try that’.

There is a section on assessing plants which particularly interested me.  I have attended many a talk by people like Fergus Garrett where they have said this but I have never really quite got what they meant.  Emma Seniuk gives a lovely example of how Aquilega chrysantha ‘Denver Gold’ forms rosettes of frilly foliage when it emerges hiding the soil, whereas Aqulegia ‘McKana’s Gold’s foliage is fanned out and you look through it at the soil – how true and I shall be taking that into account in the future.  Another idea I might try is sowing something like wheat or rye around my bulbs to hide the soil and stop muddy splash back.  Of course our climates are different so it might be that the crops wont grow at the right time for this to work for me in the UK but its worth investigating.  I could go on, and on.

I said the book’s arrival was serendipitous for me.  I have been feeling lost with my garden, I have drifted from my original careless enjoyment of all things horticultural into a place where I over think everything to the point I have had periods of complete despondency.  A few weeks ago I realised what was happening and why and took the mental step to go back to my gardening roots, so to speak, and try to rediscover my love of all things planty.  The Art of Gardening conveys that sense of joy that I have lost.  The closing paragraph sums it up well In your own garden, trust your instincts.  Design to please yourself and make the garden your personal expression.”

I can see me coming back to this book time and time again and I suspect it will quickly become my second favourite gardening book.  My first is ‘The Layered Garden’ by David Culp – interestingly also based in Pennsylvania.  There is something about both books that is exuberant and pushes at the boundaries in a gentle way but is at the same time liberating – its something I have yet to find in English garden writing, apart from maybe Christopher Lloyd.  Maybe I should visit Pennsylvania….now there’s a thought!

 

A timely reminder

Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening

 

I read last night and into the early hours and wept. It’s rare for a book to hold me in this way. Despite its title, Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening is not a gardening book although the education of a gardener is the premise for the story. Nor is it about the author’s battle with breast cancer although this cannot be ignored. No, this book is about the human condition with all its frailty and contradictions. It is about a friendship that struggles to emerge but blossoms into something truly life affirming.

The writing isn’t sophisticated nor does it try to be clever. It is brutally honest but in a quiet understated way. The author, Carol Wall, confronts all our fears.  The fear of making a fool of yourself, appearing to be racist, saying the wrong thing, and worse not realising it, the fear of losing your parents and the terror of dying yourself. But through the author and Mr Owita’s evolving relationship the author learns and grows. She confronts her fears and in turn develops a deep understanding of her new friend and his family, who it transpires are dealing with their own demons.

Despite what might sound like a rather depressing storyline, Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening, is a joy to read. The characters are engaging from the first page and with their back stories slowly unfolding throughout the book we are drawn into their lives wanting to know more.

But the real message I took from this book was that the most important things in life are those that you cannot buy; the importance of real friendship, friendship and love which puts some one else first without hesitation and how we should cherish such friendships as they are very special indeed.  A timely reminder at this time of year.

I would like to thank Kathy over at Cold Climate Gardening for featuring this book on her blog as I would never have come across it otherwise on this side of the pond.  As ever the joy of blogging is the connections we make which lead us to discover all manner of things we wouldn’t normally come across.

 

Paradise Gardens: Book Review

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The title of Paradise Gardens is a little misleading if like me you assumed it was another coffee table book that would be full of large glossy pictures of gardens with some text alongside.  Instead this book has a completely different feel.  Although its appearance is of your typical occupant of the coffee table glamour pack when you open it you realise that you are expected to actually engage with the text and as Hercule Poirot would say “exercise your little grey cells”.

Dr Toby Musgrave, demonstrates his academic credentials in this book which brings together the majority of religions and spiritual belief systems in the world, now and past.  The premise of the book is to explore how these beliefs systems draw on nature and in some cases how this then goes on to influence the creation of gardens.

We start with the classical and ancient belief systems: Egypt, Minoan, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome. Each paragraph discusses the basic history of the culture and most importantly how they overlapped demonstrating that the idea that these cultures existed in isolation to be inaccurate.  Musgrave discusses how the overlapping cultures through trade and conflicts shared their beliefs influencing each other.  This is also very clear in the sections on Eastern religions (Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Scholar Gardens, Japan, Zen).  A particularly long section with an abundance of glorious pictures of magical Eastern temples and gardens.

There is also a substantive section on Abrahamic religion which covers the Garden of Eden, medieval gardens, Islam, Renaissance, and ‘Elysium rediscovered’.   For me the last two was disconnected to the theme of the book.  I felt as though the book had strayed into a more landscape history book rather than focussing on religion and spiritual influences. The Elysium section refers to the 18th century landscape movement in England and although the text refers back to the Greece and Roman influences I felt it was a detour.  I was also disappointed that symbolism, particularly in Islamic gardens, wasn’t given more room;  having been to a talk this week on just this subject I know it is fascinating.

The final section on Pantheism and polytheism (I told you that you needed to engage your brain) covers Hindiusm, Northern Paganism, Evergreens, North America and Mesoamerica and New Beliefs.  However, there is no reference in book to the faiths and beliefs associated with the Aborigines, Maori, and people of Africa which seems a significant oversight.

Paradise Gardens is informative and full of not only beautiful images of landscapes and gardens but fascinating objects and art.  There are a number of discreet articles on specific gardens around the world which exemplify a particular faith or belief.  I found the one on The Cloisters Museum in New York, built in the 1930s intriguing; the pictures show the garden to be skilfully planted and constructed and you can almost imagine a monk sitting  and contemplating. Ryoan-ji Temple in Kyoto, Japan shows it to be quite exceptional – truly a place to aspire to visit.

Paradise Gardens is a book to dip into as and when and I am sure you will find many new and fascinating insights.

 

Book Review: The Crafted Garden

The Crafted Garden

I often have whimsical thoughts that I will make some ornamental delight from autumn leaves or festoon the house with winter foliage and berries for Christmas.   But do I ever create these crafty masterpieces? Well No! Of course not!  There is never enough time and even if I was to collect  winter berries and leaves I am then left wondering how to turn them into the image of a Christmas arrangement that might grace a Victorian masterpiece (seen through a frosted window!) which is in my head.

But Louise Curley has come to my rescue with her new book The Crafted Garden.  The book works through the seasons demonstrating a range of crafts that you can do with items from your garden or foraged from hedgerows and there are even items that I think I could do which might give me some encouragement to try something more ambitious.

But before we get carried away Louise starts off with tips about equipment and techniques, the sort of information you really need but don’t realise until you have got in a muddle.  There is also advice on foraging and after-care, always useful even if you think you know about these things – I don’t!

We then start with Spring crafts but it is not all about the crafts throughout the book. There are also one page articles on growing various plants; in Spring its primrose and forget-me-nots.  The crafts are quite simple and in our season of choice they range from delicate egg shells used as vases, using teacups as planting containers for small spring delights (I saw something similar at Helen Dillon’s garden with lobelia in a cup and saucer and it was really effective), to making pots out of bark.  My favourite in this section were the terrariums and I will definitely be having a go at those.  Just as there are articles on associated plants to grow throughout the book there are self-contained articles teaching you new techniques such as pressing flowers and also features on key plants/flowers for each season.

The remaining three seasons follow the same format all beautifully illustrated with Jason Ingram’s photographs.  The photographs not only show the end product, or close-ups of the plant material used but also some close-ups of  items being produced to help you understand what is required.  The instructions are written in a simple straightforward format but what makes the book more engaging than a collection of craft instructions is the introductions to each item by Louise written in a chatty and friendly way giving extra tips and advice on alternative material you can use.

The book ends with a comprehensive directory of suppliers of everything from the plants through to the haberdashery and where to find vintage items.

I particularly liked this book because the projects all seemed to be achievable; even with a limited amount of time I think you could achieve the majority of them.  I also liked that whilst some of the items had a rustic charm to them there were other items such as the driftwood planter for succulents which would look good in the most modern of homes.  Many of the items could also be made with your children if you wanted to but  whilst Louise recognises this she hasn’t compromised the book by trying to write for both age ranges.

I would recommend The Crafted Garden to anyone who has aspirations to be more crafty and to use their garden produce in more decorative ways than plonking flowers in a vase – of which I am guilty

 

 

 

Book Review: The Plant Lovers Guide to Asters

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I have a backlog of books to review and although book reviews was almost the least popular subject for posts in the poll I carried out earlier this week I do feel duty bound to work through them so apologies for possibly a lot of book reviews in the coming weeks.

I thought it was timely to start with The Plant Lover’s Guide to Asters by Paul Picton and Helen Picton.  I have to confess that Helen is a friend of mine and I am in awe of her and her father’s plant knowledge.  A mutual friend said that horticultural knowledge was in Helen’s DNA and I suspect its true.  Helen is the third generation to run Old Court Nurseries in Colwall which specialises in Asters – not a bad achievement especially when asters really went out of favour back in the 1970s when conifers became all the rage.

Anyway, the book is another of the Timberpress ‘The Plant Lover’s Guide’ series.  I do think this is a successful format.  You normally have some information on how  to use the specific plant group in your garden, then plant profiles and lists of suitable varieties for different locations,  cultivation tips and pests and diseases and then information about where to buy or see the plant.

The Aster book is no exception and I particularly enjoyed the ‘Designing with Asters’ section.  In it Helen shows you that you can use asters in almost any setting whether it is the traditional herbaceous border, where they first found their popularity, or in prairie planting, through which they have had a revival.  You can even grow them in pots, something I hadn’t realised at all and  amazingly there are alpine asters.  There is a reference to the recent name changes to asters although not too much technical stuff and the entries are all in the new names.

I also enjoyed the section ‘Understanding Asters’ which discusses the history of asters and their breeding.  It is in itself a short history of horticultural trends over the last 100 years in the UK and really interesting, if like me, you are interested  in  the history of plant hunters and horticulturists.

Unbelievable there are profiles of 101 asters.  I was surprised that there were so many varieties and the Pictons have tried to include varieties that are readily available.  I am particularly interested in Aster x frikartii ‘Wunder von Stafa’, a low growing aster with large flowers which I think will look great in front of my roses to bring some colour at this time of the year and hide the roses legs. Interesting there is a short section about growing asters with roses – wittingly entitled ‘Roses Need Friends’.  Also appealing is Eurybia divaricata ‘Eastern Star’ another low growing aster which will tolerate a shady position.  I must ask Helen if she has either in stock.

Throughout the book is generously illustrated with photos, the majority taken by Paul Picton or Helen’s husband, Ross Barbour.  There are many close-ups of plants but also a significant number of gardens show-casing asters, many of them local to here. As with the other books in this series it is well written in an accessible format with has a friendly tone to it. Regardless of how experienced a gardener you are you will find something of interest to you.

If you are quick you can visit Old Court Nurseries and see the national collection – the Picton Garden and nursery are open every day until 18th October.  If you are going to Malvern Autumn Show then it is only 10 minutes away and a good way to round off your visit to this part of the world.  Helen and Ross will also be selling asters at the show.