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The Encyclopedia of Grasses for Livable Landscapes Hardcover – Illustrated, April 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Taking a broad view of gardening with grasses, Darke acknowledges the ornamental attributes that enhance private plantings and looks at the myriad possibilities for using grasses in natural areas and public landscapes. A notable photographer, Darke includes more than 1,000 entrancing photographs to illustrate grass family members, from grasses and sedges to rushes, restios, and cattails. Issues of sustainability and ecology color Darke's thoughtful approach. International travels take him through Japan and houses thatched with miscanthus to a railway line in Pennsylvania where he documents switchgrass emerging from granite walls. A presentation of the botany, aesthetics, and design potential of grasses advances the concept of gardening with these plants. Each plant entry includes advice on maintenance, cultivation, and nomenclature implements^B as well as descriptions of characteristics and cultural requirements. Darke's impressive achievement should stand as the definitive resource for grasses for some time to come. Alice Joyce
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


"Opening chapters discuss the global significance, botany and beauty of grasses. Design, cultivation and maintenance are also detailed. The massive plant encyclopedia describes hundreds of different grasses...with specifics to help gardeners select the most appropriate grasses for their conditions and help nurseries decide which ones to stock." L. A. Times, Lili Singer

"...what a beauty. Rick is one of the best of all time; passionate about gardening and plants." Bob Hill, host of Homegrown

“The book is a scholarly encyclopedia of ornamental grasses, the most comprehensive and well-researched book on the subject, and the one that will remain the most important reference on ornamental grasses for decades.”

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 484 pages
  • Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated; First Edition ~1st Printing edition (April 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0881928178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0881928174
  • Product Dimensions: 10.4 x 1.2 x 11.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #147,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rick Darke heads RICK DARKE LLC ( a Pennsylvania USA-based consulting firm specializing in landscape ethics, photography, and contextual design. Darke's work blends art, ecology, horticulture, and cultural geography in the creation, conservation, and management of broadly functional living landscapes.

A knowledgeable field ecologist and horticulturist, Darke's professional experience includes 16 years as Longwood Gardens' Curator of Plants, during which he studied and photographed a great array of world ecologies including those of South Africa, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the Canary Islands, and northern Europe. He continues to travel both hemispheres in search of ideas to sustain and enrich the global garden. His work has been featured on National Public Radio, in The New York Times, the Huffington Post, in Garden Design Magazine, BBC Gardens Illustrated and elsewhere.

Darke's approach to landscape design and management is grounded in first-hand observation of regional ecologies and cultural landscapes. He has studied and photographed North American plants in their habitats for more than 40 years, and this work is reflected in his books including The American Woodland Garden: Capturing the Spirit of the Deciduous Forest (Timber Press, 2002), which was profiled on National Public Radio and also received the American Horticultural Society's Book Award, the Garden Writers Association Golden Globe Award for book photography, the National Arbor Day Foundation's Certificate of Merit.

Darke is recognized as one of the world's experts on grasses and their use in public and private landscapes. His book, The Encyclopedia of Grasses for Livable Landscapes (Timber Press, 2007) includes over 1000 photos of grasses in global landscapes, and is the most complete reference on this subject. It has been published in French (Editions du Rouergue, 2007) and German (Verlag Eugen Ulmer, 2010)

Rick wrote the foreword for Doug Tallamy's shape-changing book, Bringing Nature Home: How you Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants (Timber Press, 2009).

Darke worked with Timber Press to produce The Wild Garden: Expanded Edition (2009). In addition to reproducing the complete unabridged text and all the original illustrations from William Robinson's revolutionary classic, this expanded edition includes new chapters and over 100 photos by Darke, placing Robinson's concept of wild gardening in modern ecological context.

Darke contributed illustrated chapters to two multi-author books published in 2011: The New American Sustainable Garden (Timber Press) includes Rick's chapter on Balancing Natives and Exotics in the Garden. Fallingwater (Rizzoli, 2011) includes his chapter Wright in the Woods: The Nature of Fallingwater's Landscape.

Rick contributed the preface, multiple essays and photography to Annik LaFarge's book On the High Line: Exploring America's Most Original Urban Park (Thames & Hudson 2012). A revised and expanded edition was published in June 2014.

Most recently Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy continued their collaboration with a jointly-authored new book, The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden, published by Timber Press in June 2014. Chapters include "Layers in Wild Landscapes", "The Community of Living Organisms: Why Interrelationships Matter More Than Numbers", "The Ecological Functions of Gardens: What Landscapes Do", "The Art of Observation", and "Applying Layers to the Home Garden". With over 500 photos and 70,000 words The Living Landscape describes and illustrates a broadly inclusive approach to garden design that supports both humans and wildlife.

Later in 2014 Darke's work will appear in The Good Gardener?: Nature, Humanity and the Garden, a multi-author work edited by Annette Giesecke and Naomi Jacobs. Published by Artifice Books on Architecture (London, an imprint of Black Dog Press). This heavily illustrated book will include Darke's chapter titled "The Accidental Landscape". The Good Gardener? is now available for pre-order through Amazon.

Darke is a frequent lecturer on a diverse array of topics relating to gardens and global landscapes. His programs utilize state of the art digital presentation technologies and typically integrate video. For further information visit

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By M. Chilton on June 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Beautifully illustrated book and so specific. I had a hard time getting used to the detail because most books give you just a paragraph on the grass and very little on care, etc.

It's everything you want to know about Ornamental Grasses and more. Very, very complete reference source. Maybe be a bit too much for a average gardener, but if you love grasses and gardening -- this is an excellent book.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By nehaleminthesun on April 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an awesome book. I own another of Rick Darke's grass books, the Timber Press pocket guide, which is also excellent as an overall reference. This one, though, goes in to a depth I didn't know I needed until I saw it! I find I am reading every page, after having skimmed every beautiful photo. I particularly admire the wisdom behind the design theory (see the chapter on design)--a true artist's understanding of color, form and line. Why use grasses in a garden design? And how to do so? The topic is eloquently covered. So well in fact that I have had a bit of a paradigm shift.

In addition to Darke's exquisite artistic sense, his horticultural, encyclopedic knowledge of all these plants is very appreciated. I can trust what he tells me. The only thing missing (and missing from almost all--dare I say ALL--ornamental grasses books) is the width size for grasses listed. One needs to try to extrapolate a probable width from the height which IS given for every plant. Granted this piece of info must be hard for authors as there may be two or even three width sizes for grasses--the basal clump in spring, the foliage fully expanded in summer, and tip-to-tip spread IN BLOOM in fall, for example. And there is the question of time as well: e.g. a 3-year size vs. a 10-year size. Still, a gardener needs to know these things: what sort of space to give a grass for its best look to be achieved.

The above is a small point for an overall excellent book. It covers ornamental grasses from every angle, from a man very experienced in the genre.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By ekr on September 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Encyclopedia of Grasses is a very beautiful, and at first glance comprehensive, book. However as I got into the details of both the book and my current landscape project I was somewhat disappointed. The book contains beautiful photographs and descriptions but has a limited usage as a reference book. In particular, I was looking for information on plant hardiness, appropriate zones, size, care, pairing with other plants etc. In addition, it is difficult to cross reference from common plant names to genus species names and there were a number of grasses which are common in Northwest nurseries that I could not find in the book.

As a landscaping resource book I would rate this book as a 3; however the book itself is of extremely high quality, the photographs are beautiful and the narrative is close to lyrical. If you are looking for a pure reference book on grasses I would not recommend this as your first choice. If you are looking for a very attractive coffee table book or gift, this is definitely a 5.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By mtk on October 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Excellent for the experienced and inexperienced grasses' growers. Beautiful photographs and readable, informative text. We live in Maine and have planted many grasses. This book helped us understand soil conditions and care.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By LSF on March 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I am delighted with this book. It is exactly what I was hoping for. Not only are the photos excellent but the corresponding information lives up to the photography.
I am a Horticulturalist/Rosarian looking to include "grasses" in my designs and this book promises to be the only one I'll need to purchase.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Randy Gronowski on August 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is the bible of all ornamental grasses, great pictures for referance and identifacation of grass plants !!!!!!!!!!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By hkr3 on July 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In depth, beautifully photographed and written by someone who obviously cares a great deal about the subject. Great for reference -- also great just to peruse.
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