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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful collection of pointers....
on July 16, 2001
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.