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The Dry Gardening Handbook: Plants and Practices for a Changing Climate Hardcover – September 29, 2008
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The beauty photographs he chose to include can be fascinating. Planning on including Ballota in your plant list? Look on page 85 to see a hill in Greece covered with Ballota living in it's natural environment. Or go to page 158: it's a full-page photograph of Phlomis growing wild on a hillside in Crete. This way of representing plants is typical throughout the book. And the planted gardens he includes are excellent examples of successful groupings of mediterranean plants.
Yes, there ARE a handful of California native plants included, but this book isn't about that subject. Instead, the book invites you to combine plants originating from similar climates all over the world, then stand back and watch how effortlessly and successfully they live together.
How difficult is it to find a quality hard-cover book today? The Dry Gardening Handbook is a weighty, 208-page book with 400 original photographs; that means you'll not have seen these images anywhere else. And the color shows perfect reproductions of all the plants. Yay!
One last word. If you like this book I recommend Beth Chatto's book, Drought Resistant Planting. Containing no plant encyclopedia, it is instead the story of how she created a gravel garden on a site that used to be a parking lot. But even though there is no encyclopedia, the book is filled with the names of plants she used -- or should have considered -- as well as her story about each plant and how well it grows through a series of years. Beth discusses her failures as well as her successes and explains why the failures occurred. It is a detailed account through time, and it opened my eyes about what is necessary when preparing the soil to ensure that a low-water garden will flourish.
Highly recommended for people living in appropriate areas, especially Southern California.
This book focuses on plants from the world's Mediterranean-climate regions such as southern Europe and north Africa, and some of the western coastal regions of Australia, South Africa, Chile, and California. However, it does describe some plants from other dry-climate areas. It contains very extensive and knowledgeable profiles of a wide range of these plants, many including the author's own experiences in growing them (he runs a nursery in France).
What I like most about this book, however, is that it provides excellent information on matching particular plants to specific Mediterranean sub-climates. The book describes a method of plotting your location's average temperatures and average rainfall (easy to find on weather.com, for example) and then computing a drought index for your area. Plants described in the book are labeled with drought code on the same scale, indicating the limits at which they can survive on natural rainfall. This will allow anyone in a Mediterranean-climate location to select a pallet of plants that will thrive on their own without sprinklers (and in fact, many will not thrive if watered during the summer).
Plant options for San Francisco will differ from those for Los Angeles, but there are many options for both. Anywhere along the California coast, it's possible to have a lush garden that looks good year round without any supplemental irrigation. It takes some planning, and water to get plants established. But as this excellent reference makes clear, there is no shortage of plants to chose from.