Summer Reading: Mary Ann Newcomer reviews four new flower books

Yes, you can create the flower garden of your dreams. We have summarized four new titles covering flower gardening and designing with color in the garden for your library. May we suggest you pick up one or all four of them as you start thinking about next year’s dazzling displays? Because we are gardeners, that’s what we do.

The Ultimate Flower Gardener's Guide

Jenny Rose Carey leaves no leaf unturned, enabling you to create your vision of paradise. The Ultimate Flower Gardener’s Guide: How to Combine Shape, Color, and Texture to Create the Garden of Your Dreams (Timber Press, $29.95) has descriptions of more than 170 different flowers and sets the stage for a zillion combinations for anyone, anywhere. Her premise: Flower gardens are as individual as the person who creates them.

Jenny Rose Carey

An excellent reference book for beginning gardeners and those with decades of dirt under their nails, Jenny Rose gives good advice for locating your garden no matter your growing conditions – shade, part shade, full sun, and garden bed shapes and arrangements. Are you lusting for a formal garden? How about a rambunctious, overflowing cottage garden? Are you starting a new cutting garden, dear Flower Farmer? Do you like hazy gardens with punctuation marks and show stoppers? Buttons and daisies, or cool and relaxing gardens?

Jenny Rose Carey

I especially liked Jenny Rose’s section called: “Looking for Flower Garden Inspiration,” in which she encourages us to go through magazines, and to frequent friends’ gardens, public gardens, and as many gardens as you can visit throughout the year. Take notes and pictures everywhere. Begin by using this book as a reference tool and you will be on your way.

Follow Jenny Rose Carey: @jennyrosecarey @northviewgarden

the flower yard cover

I cannot begin to tell you how much I enjoyed The Flower Yard: Growing Flamboyant Flowers in Containers (Arthur Parkinson, Kyle Books, $26.99). Every blossom, hen, and dolly tub, as well as the author himself, are joys to behold. The container plantings are 110% attainable whether you have five of them or what Arthur calls “archipelagos of galvanized metal and terra cotta.” He cites Persian carpets, which symbolized heaven on earth, as inspiration and uses terms like “defiant” and “ornamental wild.” Whatever he wants to call this style, I am all in. Referring to the plantings as living vases is a perfect description. He describes Dahlia ‘Soulman’ with “dark mulberry-jam middles radiating out to velvet magenta petals.” YUM. Arthur talks a bit about his hens, his beloved Nana, songbirds, and cutting flowers. He is passionate about companion plantings for dahlias, encouraging pollinators, discouraging the use of peat, applauding the virtues of homemade compost, and embracing color. Late in the season, he takes the garden indoors (I’ve already ordered my amaryllis for November),

totally tangerine
Millet and panicum, annual grasses creating a jungle tapestry with dahlia ‘Totally Tangerine’, a feast for the bees and birds.

As a side note, I am particularly enamored of this “living vase” style of planting. We are on our second week of 100-degree temperatures in Idaho, and we live where water is expensive. It seems fool-hardy to water borders, and I feel better using the water I have access to for growing tomatoes and fruit. An archipelago of flamboyant containers is my next undertaking. 

Arthur works with his friend, Sarah Raven of Perch Hill Garden in East Sussex, England, and they have a podcast, “Grow, Cook, Eat, & Arrange.” He can also be found on online. Follow Arthur Parkinson: @arthurparkinson_.

The Gardener's Palette

While we bask in a riot of summer color, let’s consider Jo Thompson’s book of jewels, written on behalf of the Royal Horticulture Society: The Gardener’s Palette:  Creating Colorful Harmony in the Garden (Timber Press, $45.00).

A renowned landscape designer, Ms. Thompson uses the official RHS Colour (color) Chart of 920 plant colours (colors). No small undertaking, she whittled them to a mere 100 “palettes,” ranging from “strawberries and cream, with a drop of wine,” to “your red is my green” and every possible combination in between.

Gardeners Palette Jenny Rose Carey
Pages 180-181 “Blue Heaven” (c) Katy Donaldson

My favorite: Blue Heaven (shown above). An overview of the planting is presented in all its glory – in this case, asters, molinia and panicum –  while the individual plants are teased out on the facing page in comprehensive detail. Truly a garden lover’s jewel box of rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. Exquisite references accompany many of the combinations such as a photo of the Taj Mahal at sunset, a painting by Seurat, and quotes by Georgia O’Keefe. With a profound command of color and history, Ms. Thompson waxes poetically about colors harmonizing, dazzling subtleties, and “magentaphobia.” This is a must-have reference book full of inspiration.

Follow Jo Thompson; @jothompsongarden

the Seasonal Gardener

Sometimes we need a set of fresh eyes on our gardens. The Seasonal Gardener: Creative Planting Combinations, by Anna Pavord (Phaidon Press, $49.95) is just the ticket. Some of you may have a copy of her original title, Plant Partners, penned some twenty years ago. This is an extensive update with the inclusion of hard working shrubs, many new salvias, and an appreciation for the importance of pollinators and wildlife in our gardens.

Spring Turns to Summer. Picture credit: © Claire Takacs.
A brilliant combination of plants with the spires of the white lupin ‘Noble Maiden’ and the purple and white ‘The Governor’ holding the stage in front of a shower of blossom from Deutzia x hybrida ‘Strawberry Fields’.

Anna has put together 60 primary combinations, beginning with a “star performer” and adding two ideal partners. As a garden grows through the seasons, so does the book, beginning with Signs of Spring, as Spring Turns to Summer, High Summer and into Autumn. The “stars” were chosen for their beauty as much as their durability across climates and soils.

The Seasonal Gardener: Creative Planting Combinations by Anna Pavord. Phaidon
The Seasonal Gardener: Creative Planting Combinations by Anna Pavord. Picture credits: © Claire Takacs (1) © Jason Ingram (2) © Clive Nichols (3)

There’s more! If the combos aren’t quite enough, there is a compendium of additional plants in addition to the “ideal partners”, expanding the range of each star performer. Pavord has long been a beloved voice of horticulture, especially with her brilliant tome The Tulip. This is another fine example her wealth of horticulture knowledge, her catchy way with words, and most importantly, her devotion to gardening.

More about Anna Pavord

Mary Ann Newcomer

Scribe-Scout-Speaker A daughter of the American west, with great grandparents who homesteaded in Idaho, I tagged along with my grandmother and grandfather as they gardened in the tiny town of Latah, Washington, just across the Idaho state line. I have developed a fierce passion for all things GARDEN. I grow, scout, and write about gardens. My expertise is in the Intermountain West, but I have written for Rocky Mountain Gardening, Country Gardens, MaryJane’s Farm, Fine Gardening, Leaf Magazine, the American Gardener, and newspapers across the region. I’ve designed public, private, and commercial landscapes, and gardens for flower shows. I love encouraging gardeners to get down and dirty. When not tending to my garden, I volunteer my time weeding or planting or doing garden design work at the Idaho Botanical Garden in Boise.

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