Herbs in Bloom: A Guide to Growing Herbs as Ornamental Plants Gardner, Jo Ann, 1998 ISBN 0- 88192-454-7 (cloth U.S. $34.95) 394pp Timber Press, 133 S.W. Second Avenue, Suite 450, Portland, OR 97204-3527
Herbs in Bloom by Jo Ann Gardner carries the subtitle A Guide to Growing Herbs as Ornamental Plants. The author states in her Preface that she stumbled on the ornamental value of herbs, plants more commonly used for medicinal purposes, accidentally while starting a garden at her home on Cape Breton lsland in Canada. Many of the plants which she had hoped to cultivate did not prove hardy, but some herbs which been added casually proved to be both tough and attractive.
Herbs in Bloom presents information in a clear and logically organized fashion. Chapter One deals with growing herbs from seed, including information on pests and diseases. Chapter Two deals with the use of herbs ornamentals in various settings throughout the landscape, from beds and borders to containers. Then comes the third chapter which describes eighty herbs, listed alphabetically. For each herb, a synopsis of the growth characteristics and requirements are given in a list along with the family name and a few common names. If there are multiple species associated with the name of a particular herb, they may be discussed together in one entry or in separate entries. For example, there is a general entry for sage (Salvia; Lamiaceae), but Gardner also includes separate entries for S. officinalis, S. sclarea, and S. viridis.
Interestingly, some of the species listed might not jump to mind first as being herbs, such as roses. However, the author emphasizes species and selections with herbal uses, as she does by largely limiting her discussion of roses to a discussion of Rosa gailica 'Officinalis,' the Apothecary's rose. More emphasis should have been placed on the non-floral characteristics of some herbs useful for ornamentation. For example, the attractive leaves and glandular inflorescence stems of Salvia glutinosa can be an item of interest and might have found a place in Herbs in Bloom.
Excellent color photographs illustrate the entries throughout, as would be expected for a volume from Timber Press, and there are some black and white drawings illustrating landscape features. These drawings are good but not of the same quality as the photographs or of the same quality as drawings found in other books published by Timber Press. The style of herbs in Bloom flows easily, a pleasant surprise given the heavy and highly romanticized style of many books devoted to subjects from the garden.
Herbs in Bloom belongs in the personal library of anyone interested in herbs or in flower gardening. It is highly appropriate for university libraries and for the reading lists of horticulture classes. Listing this work as a supplemental item for an introductory plant biology class might help some students to bridge the gap between botany and their everyday experiences, increasing their interest in both subjects. Because the author's garden is situated on Cape Breton Island, and because she is using her own experience in choosing the herbs discussed, the book will be most useful for those gardening in USDA zones 5 and 6, as the author herself states. In spite of this, this book should be useful over a wider geographic range where many of these plants will grow, particularly when combined with information on the cultivation requirements of these plants when they are grown outside these zones.
- Douglas Darnowski, Department of Crop Science, University of Illinois, Urbana IL 61801.
The Plantfinder's Guide to Ornamental Grasses Grounds, Roger 1998 ISBN 0-88192451-2 (cloth U.S. $34.95) 192 pp Timber Press, 133 S.W. Second Avenue, Suite 450, Portland, OR 97204-3527.
The grasses are the most farmed, yet one of the least gardened of the major families of flowering plants. This book will go a long way toward balancing that equation. It is an excellent manual for gardeners in the United Kingdom and has reasonably good application in other temperate areas as well. This regionality is probably necessary in any gardening book but it does imply a bit of myopia to those of us who think globally about grasses.
Although the book is clearly aimed at, and applies best to the UK, there are attempts to make it more broad such as the hardiness zone map of the US in appendix VII. The taxonomy is surprisingly current in comparison with what is normally seen in the trade and there are excellent discussions of grass taxonomy and biology that should play well to the lay audience. The nicely written text of the book is greatly aided by more than I 00 excellent photographs. It is essentially a treatise on a wide array of garden design philosophies and types, illustrated using an exhaustive compendium of the cultivars available to the UK gardener.
There are problems in some of the descriptions of biology, for example: "an ovary at the tip of which are three stamens and two stigmas", Elymus is included with the 'warm season species', the author seems to have missed some of the point on dispersal mechanisms, and I would have liked to have seen 'caryopsis' used in the fruit description. Cyperaceae, Juncaceae and Typhaceae are included as well and the descriptions of those families are somewhat more lacking in breadth (e.g. both the Cyperaceae and Juncaceae are said to be restricted to temperate and sub-arctic regions). However, on the whole, the author provides a good introduction to general themes in the grasses and similar looking families in cultivation.
A slightly more insidious problem, common to many gardening books, lurks beneath the surface here as well. This is advocacy for exotic diversity in cultivation with little regard for the consequences. Although the author does a good job of explaining the difference between the running bamboos and their potential to be pests, as opposed to the sympodial bamboos whose structure and biology make them fundamentally safe to grow in general, he does little to dissuade the reader from planting species of grasses that are known pests in the UK and other areas of the world. There are many common sense remarks with regard to spread within a garden but the issue of non-native germplasm and introduction of pest plants is not really addressed, One of the most high profile species in the book (Imperata cylindrical is known widely as one of the world's worst weeds. The planting of less vigorous cultivars is sometimes encouraged in the book but its regionality makes the arguments weak.
The book is really an impressive work and it will expand the horizons of most gardeners. It is clearly a book for lay readers and it will serve that audience well.
- Gerald "Stinger" Guala, Fairchild Tropical Garden, Miami, FL 33156