Plant Selection: Learning from Nature Volume 1

By Andy McIndoe

Review of Noel Kingsbury’s new eBook Plant Selection: Learning from Nature. 

Noel Kingsbury’s new book, Plant Selection: Learning from Nature Volume 1 has just been published as an e book by MyGardenSchool. If you’ve never bought an e book before don’t worry, neither had I. I don’t use a kindle and I’m a devotee of traditional books.

However, I downloaded the Kindle reading app to my iPad and then downloaded the book: easy. I asked Noel why he had gone down the e book route: “accessibility, cost-effectiveness for buyer and author” was his reply. Good arguments.

This is a reference for anyone involved in designed plantings, making or managing them, from amateur gardeners to landscape architects. As we do so much of our research online having the reference to hand on the same piece of kit makes a lot of sense to me. Also, as an author, the production process of writing a book and getting it to publication is prolonged and agonising, producing an e book streamlines that process.

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Enough about e books, what about the content? Noel sees this book as a primer, a bit of a consciousness raiser to hopefully, to get people looking at plants. It approaches plants in a very simple way, getting people to think about how they function ecologically, and survive in the natural world and how that knowledge can be applied to gardens and designed landscapes.

There is no-one else really doing that at the moment. It’s about how plants 'work' and what that means in terms of longevity, spread etc. It’s about empowering people to try to understand plants from their own understanding - the essential tools for putting together effective plantings and managing them properly.

The blurb says: “A reference for landscape architects and designers to help select plants that are ecologically suited to the site.” I hope that doesn’t put the wider audience off. I think it is an invaluable tool for landscape architects and designers, but it is just as useful for any gardener selecting plants for a bed or border. Helping him or her to make the right choices.

Plants that suit that garden situation without the need for constant maintenance and irrigation. Today plants are so often chosen individually on appearance without any thought to their suitability.

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I am always horrified by the amount of unnecessary irrigation that is installed in newly designed gardens. If a plant needs constant watering in the long term, in my opinion it shouldn’t be there in the first place. I think this book goes a long way to driving that message of real sustainability, but at the same time creating visually appealing landscapes.

This e-book is the first in a series by Noel on planting design and plant usage in gardens, parks and other designed landscapes. It is relevant to all non-tropical situations. It is also entry-level, assuming no prior knowledge of the plant sciences or planting design.

If you download the sample pages you might think it is a bit like a botany and plant physiology lesson. In my experience this is really valuable stuff: knowing the difference between a perennial and a biennial, and what we mean by a shrub and a tree is really important to understand.

The book introduces the reader to the basics of plants – the different physical forms plants take, their needs, their responses to different climates and environments, their competition with each other, and to the issues around long-term performance.

Plant ecology science is taken as a starting point, in order to help the reader understand why plants do what they do, and to try to predict how they will perform in the future.

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There is an emphasis on understanding plants as dynamic parts of a system, an approach which will do much to help reduce maintenance and improve the sustainability and biodiversity of plantings.

In the early pages Noel compares a traditional landscape planting of a group of trees surrounded by mown grass with the Piet Oudolf designed planting on the High Line in New York. Emphasising the biodiversity in the latter and the sustainability issues in the former. I have to admit I think the High Line planting is used too often as an example, but I get the point.

Overall I think this book makes good reading, you will learn from it. It will give you the fundamental knowledge you need to make your own good planting decisions. It is the first in a series based on how plants survive as living things. This will enable you to create combinations which provide beauty, longevity and functionality; subjects which will be covered in future books.

Plant Selection: Learning from Nature by Noel Kingsbury is published by MyGardenSchool

Kindle price: £9.95

Buy now:

Andy McIndoe

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