If you want to know how to design a garden that looks good year round, I highly recommend The Nonstop Garden by Stephanie Cohen and Jennifer Benner, which will be available for sale tomorrow (I received an advance copy for review). Those of you with small yards will especially appreciate the book, as it includes 10 design plans to create different kinds of garden beds, be it a native garden or the feeling of a wooded retreat. But even though I don’t have a yard of my own, I found plenty of information about plants and design ideas that I can use to create interest and beauty year round on my balcony.
The book is broken down into four major parts: nuts and bolts, the main attractions, the supporting cast, and finishing touches. The authors begin the nuts and bolts section by talking about what they think is so great about mixed borders. They were preaching to the converted as far as I was concerned, so I zipped through that part and dove right in to reading about their ideas for “design strategies that work.” I found that chapter to be particularly useful and interesting, especially the graphic that depicts how to get the right balance of trees, perennials, annuals, bulbs, vines, and veggies.
In Cohen and Benner’s interpretation of the ideal nonstop garden, trees, shrubs, and perennials are the main attractions that gardeners should design around. They dedicate two chapters to great looking plants that would be worthy of being a headlining attraction. Interspersed throughout are photos–of course–but also several garden plans that show just how to use these gorgeous plants to their best advantage. The design plans are not just for people with perfect garden situations either. For example, on page 86 they share a garden plan for a bed with soil that is on the soggy side and features a beautiful Magnolia tree.
Eucomis ‘Alba’ and Oxalis triangularis on page 94
I have to admit that my favorite part of the book comes next, the bulbs, annuals, edibles, and vines. I found so many of my favorite plants among their list of bulbs, and they have really great ideas for combining them with other plants. On page 110 there is a handy chart with suggestions for annuals and perennials that look great combined with various bulbs. I know that I will be referring to that part often, so I immediately stuck a post-it note to flag the page. Like the first chapters of the book, these chapters are also dotted with garden design plans to help you add style to your patio (‘Some Like it Hot’ on page 118) or interest to a hellstrip you may be guerilla gardening on (‘Inferno Strip’ on page 146).
The last part of the book is made up of ideas for finishing touches, things like garden ornaments, containers, trellises, and seasonal interest. I really liked the Adirondack chair featured on page 202 that is painted with large leaf prints. I think I might try something similar, it’s such a fun, whimsical look. The container pictured on page 188 also provides great inspiration for combining ornamental and edible plants in the same pot.
All in all, this book was a very enjoyable and helpful read. The authors have a wonderful conversational style (I laughed out loud when I read their description of lilies: “[They] are like that colorful great aunt during the holidays”) that makes you feel as if they are hanging out on your porch tossing back garden ideas for what to do with that one spot right over there…