When I heard about Paul Bonine’s Black Plants: 75 Striking Choices for the Garden I was very excited. I love black plants. I pre-ordered it on the spot, but I haven’t gotten around to reviewing it until just now. I apologize, because it really is a great book that deserved immediate attention.
As the title alludes, the book contains 75 plant selections, each with a paragraph about the plant and a large, full-bleed photo. I like that the descriptions are written in a light, conversational tone. You don’t have to be a plant scholar or even know the proper way to pronounce “clematis” to enjoy reading the book and get useful information from it. Each plant description is accompanied by useful icons that tell you what zone the plant is hardy to and how much water, sunlight, etc it likes.
The plants included are a nicley curated collection of deep burgandy, midnight blue, darkest purple, and other exquisitely dark colors. I appreciate that the plants are a really diverse collection. You can tell that the author tried to include a nice mix of trees, shrubs, annuals, herbaceous perennials, bulbs, etc. The plants also seem evenly divided between black foliage and black flowers.
Another nice thing about the book is its size. You might think that a book of this sort would be coffee table book size. But instead this book is about 7 inches by 6 inches and has a soft cover. I imagine that I’ll put post it note flags on the plants I like and stick the book in my purse and take it with me to the nursery. The small size and light weight (along with the conversational tone and gorgeous photos) also makes the book perfect for reading in the bath while daydreaming about next year’s garden.
I do have a minor quibble with the book’s author though. Some of the plants in the book are not black. For example, ‘Java Red’ Weiglia. The leaves are described as deep green with a purplish cast, but I think it is a real stretch to call anything on the plant even remotely black. There are a couple of other similar plants in the book, but I’d say 95% of the plants are black or nearly black, the sort you’d expect to find in a book about black plants.
Along the same lines of my pettifog above, there are black varieties of certain plants that I like better than the ones chosen for the book. For example, I think ‘Black Stockings’ is a prettier variety of black daylily than ‘Night Wings,’ which is the selection included in Black Plants. It has ruffled petals and a deep yellow throat that really emphasizes the blackness of the flower. But ‘Night Wings’ is often referred to as the blackest daylily, so I guess it really is just personal preference.
All-in-all, this is a great book if you’re looking for some black plant inspiration. And you can’t beat the price. Amazon is currently selling it for $10.17, but even at full price ($14.95) the book is worth every penny. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.
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