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Cornucopia - Book Review: Designing with Grasses

Book Review: Designing with Grasses
Mike Wheeler

Occasionally a book grabs the imagination and stimulates a desire to rush into the garden and redesign the borders. Neil Lucas’ book will do this for many I am sure. It has a very relaxed style which is easy to read but, at the same time, is packed with useful information.

The book covers every aspect of gardening and designing with grasses – dry environments to wetlands, summer to winter, grasses in borders and grasses in pots. Particularly helpful are Neil’s top choices for different places, for example, grassland or meadow effect, woodland and shade, green roofs and many other situations. There are photographs on nearly every page directly related to the text and not just page fillers. These illustrate a wide range of grasses in their natural environment as well in the garden setting, showing their different forms and their associations with other grasses and other plants. Many examples are from his garden in Dorset, Knoll Gardens, but there are also examples from other places in the UK and the USA. The last chapter (nine) is a directory of grasses and grass-like plants. Each plant has a good description of its form and where it prefers to grow. There are photographs of key plants, but these are obviously of Neil’s best examples and it may take time for purchased plants to reach such perfection. Our Eragrostis curvula 'Totnes Burgundy' in a chimney pot still has to reach the standard of the specimen shown in the book, even though I keep showing the picture to my plants. Finally at the end of the book are details of hardiness zones, where to see and buy grasses (UK, Europe and America) and planting distances and densities.

I hope by now you will realise how comprehensive this book is but also very readable. You should be aware that this book is dangerous – financially. It promotes an urge to go and buy a large selection of grasses to try in the garden. It would be cheaper to go and visit Knoll Gardens in the summer and autumn but beware, they have a large well stocked plant sales area as well.

Designing with Grasses Neil Lucas

Published by Timber Press, 2011.

First published in the Devon Group Newsletter April / May 2012
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 32.
© Copyright for this article: Mike Wheeler

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2013. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.


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