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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Adrian Higgins writes a weekly column for the Washington Post, and I have come to appreciate his warm and entertaining essays over the past few years. Higgins follows in Henry Mitchell's footsteps (one of the greatest gardening writers ever!!) and therefore has very large gardening shoes to fill. I don't think Higgins has the gardening acumen of his predecessor, nor does he have the wit, and he does seem to spend a great deal of time hobnobing with rich and famous gardeners whereas Henry was more down to earth--most of his columns were about his weekly efforts in his own patch. Nevertheless, I look forward to reading Higgins pieces.
Higgins shares current knowledge about new plants (plants that once could not be grown successfully in the Washington area that now can be grown here thanks to genetic engineering), as well as creative ideas about older plants--some never used in local gardens. For example, regarding the latter, this past he wrote a piece on the Hyssop, which some of us have in herb beds, and he recommends for the perennial bed because it can stand up to the heat and humidity of DC (greatly exaggerated by old thinking -- DC actually has a relatively nice climate, just loss of oxygen thanks to car/SUV engines). Unfortunately, his gardening ideas mostly extend to those with five acres to spare.
The essays in Higgins book are good but I would hesitate to describe it as the "ultimate" guide. The Mid-Atlantic area is comprised of a diverse range of growing conditions and it is difficult to generalize gardening tactics let alone ultimate techniques. Higgins is aware of the growing conditions, but the novice may find it difficult to keep the "facts" straight.
The altitude in the mid-Atlantic ranges from the mountains to the sea level, and from above and below the Mason-Dixon line. DC itself is located in the upper range of many plants that do well in zone 8 to the south (Crepe Myrtle) and in the lower range of plants that do well in zone 6 to the north (Peonies). However, if you go east you move into Zone 8 again and if you go west you enter Zone 6.
The soil composition of the area ranges from limestone (water in DC is very alkaline thanks to the Shenandoah Valley) to clay (Piedmont) to coastal sand. I've worked gardens in all these areas and found the combination of soil, water PH and weather patterns/temperture does not allow one to grow anything anywhere. In fact, if you live east of the fall line (approximately Route 1) and between Fredericksburg and mid-Jersey you'd be better off to read Allen Lacy's books.
Still, I don't want to discourage readers from using Higgin's book. Many of his ideas will work--the key is to buy the types of plants that like your growing conditions. Blueberries for example come in different varieties--some do well in cooler mountain areas and others along the sandy shore. You won't know if Higgins methods work until you try them. That's the key to gardening anyway--try-al and error.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
If you live in the DC area, this is the gardening book to own--it is a practical, no nonsense guide. This book lists which specific varieties of plants thrive or do poorly in the DC Metro area. Most of my other gardening books gather dust while I take this one to the garden center.
The book does not have color illustrations, so if you do not know what a plant looks like, you will need look it up in another book or investigate it at the store.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 17, 2003
Format: Paperback
I bought this book three years ago when my gardening abilities were still beginner. It turned out to be a great, and helpful read back then, and a book I still pick up now and then to get Mr. Higgins opinion on plant choice.
I read Mr. Higgins column and online chats for the Post and find him to be informative and amusing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2007
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I bought this book thinking it would give some practical advice for a beginner in gardening in the Washington DC metropolitan area. To my disappointment this book wasn't that useful for me. I didn't care much for the writing style, too much talk but little useful information. When it comes to specific plants, often there's just one paragraph of each. And there's no pictures just paintings throughout the whole book. This is definitely a huge drawback to me.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
I bought this book 2 years ago and I have been using it constantly ever since. It contains a wealth of information about all aspects of gardening in the Washington, D.C. area -- everything from lawns to flowers to bulbs to shrubs. It is written very clearly and is a comprehensive discussion, including planting tips, diseases, best plants for different locations, etc. Further, it is entertaining! I am ordering another copy because I gave mine to a friend who is a professional gardener -- he said it was the best book he has ever seen specific to this area.
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on August 16, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This was a present for my daughter in Arlington VA. It has helped her plan and plant at her new home.
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on December 1, 2014
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
Didn't help me much.
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