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The Natural Shade Garden Hardcover – February 18, 1992

4.5 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Amazon.com Review

Shade can be a gardener's curse or delight, depending on how it's managed. Even a heavy grove of mature trees needn't have bare ground beneath; they can be surrounded with any number of shade-loving foliage, grasses, or grasslike ground covers, including galax, dichondra, ivy, vinca, wintergreen, maidenhair fern... the list of possibilities is a long one. Druse himself gardens in the shadow of a Brooklyn brownstone, so his advice is by no means limited to gardeners with woodland acreage. This book also successfully punctures the myth that a shady flower garden must be colored in greens and subtle pastels: a parade of brilliant camellias, columbines, clematis, and primula proves that a shade gardener's crayon box is as varied as any, and the well-organized Druse sorts the herbaceous perennials by color in an addendum at the back of the book.

From Publishers Weekly

While the idea of shade gardening has cropped up from time to time in garden manuals, Druse ( The Natural Garden ) effectively defines a new American horticultural aesthetic with this enthusiastic volume. He brings clear, engaging writing and gorgeous color photographs (his own) to bear on just about every category of plant and terrain relevant to his subject, and explores the fine differences between "partial shade," "light shade," "dappled shade" and "deep shade" with an appetite that will hearten any gardener whose plot has a tree or a tall building nearby. Druse encourages American gardeners to "live with shade," cultivating native plants that are naturally adapted to shady habitats, augmented by choice species from around the world or hybrids that blend in. He begins with a general discussion of natural shade habitats and shade plant features, and goes on to cover the use of containers, water and other special elements appropriate for shade gardens. The book is especially helpful for its photo essay on exemplary American shade gardens, for its state-by-state list of gardens to visit, for its suggested reading list and for its extensive plant, seed and book source listings. The Natural Shade Garden may very well be the definitive work in the area of shade gardening, which will become increasingly important as Americans seek to grow plant species in their natural habitats even as these are transformed by development. It should be welcome to gardeners in the cities, suburbs and the country alike. Druse's own beautiful plot near downtown Brooklyn, N . Y . , is featured throughout. (Mar .
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Clarkson Potter; 1 edition (February 18, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0517580179
  • ISBN-13: 978-0517580172
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 0.9 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #265,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dianne Foster HALL OF FAME on April 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
THE NATURAL SHADE GARDENER by Ken Druse is a beautiful book even if the photos are slightly "touched up." I have to laugh at the oxymoronic title, however. There is nothing natural about shade gardening, and this is not the WILD GARDEN William Robinson wrote about where drifts of plants are allowed to form naturally. I can tell from Druse's photos someone has been working very hard. Nature's version of vegetation in shade is quite different. Plants in nature tend to run to riot. If you don't think so, take a walk in the "real" woods. In nature, the toughest plant wins.
For example, Druse says English Ivy is a good ground cover in shade. Well, it is. English Ivy will grow in shade---and grow and grow and grow. Recently, a group of local volunteers in our area pulled English Ivy from the trees in a local nature preserve. The stuff kills. Another vine Druse recommends without a warning is Porcelain-berry which is becoming a major problem in along the east coast. Are you old enough to remember the introduction of the new wonder vine Kudzu??
On the other hand, Druse says Tradescantia, a native of Virginia brought to England where it was hybridized at Kew Gardens is a pest. Well, it is a prolific plant if you reintroduce it in a Zone 7 garden, but it can be controlled without a great deal of effort, unlike Lysimachia clethroides (White Gooseneck Loosestrife) which Druse recommends without warning that it will take over if you invite it into your garden. Allen Lacey and other garden writers have ID'd Gooseneck Loosestrife as a "thug in the garden" and I can tell you from personal experience they are absolutely correct (of course I had to find out for myself!!).
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Format: Hardcover
Druse's photographs alone would justify the purchase of this book. It's a feast for the eyes, and inspired me to aim for something truly artistic as I begin designing my own shade garden. For those of us who have both shade and a woodland setting, there is a useful chapter specific to woodland gardening, although it doesn't substitute for a full book on the topic. Occasionally it was difficult to determine which plant was which in a photo showing many plants, although Druse makes a huge effort to label all photos in detail. It was also a bit daunting to extract the key information from each chapter, as the text tends to present long discussions of numerous plants in succession. Taking notes is imperative. While the book is necessarily written for readers across the nation, and perhaps has a slight bias towards the northeast or wet climates, I was able to take plants I liked and cross-reference them in more detail with the Western Garden Book, thus locating more appropriate varieties for California.
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Format: Hardcover
If you like pretty pictures, then this book is for you. I bought it in conjunction with "The Complete Shade Gardener", which is black and white, to be a sort of color companion. The section of the book titled Plants and Plantings goes through the author's favorite plants for shade (which very well may be all of them) and gives a text description that does very little to give you any real understanding of the plant-not what it looks like, or how to grow it. Perhaps worst of all, the pictures in this section don't seem to correspond to the text of what the author is describing at all, so you are forced to thumb ahead or behind to see a picture of the plant the author is talking about at the time. This makes it very hard to read as you are always thumbing through the pages to find a picture of the flower the author is talking about.

The first 60 pages deal with inspiration and design, and are much easier to understand, as well as being laid out better than the next 100. The last part of the book, which presents individual garden examples also seems to be better organized and well written, although I haven't read it through yet.

Since about 2/5 of this book was enjoyable, I am giving it 2 stars. The middle section has all the monotony of a plant encyclopedia with half the information, and none of the organization. The strengths of the book stand out as the beautifully photographed plates, and the pleasant tone of the author, which still manages to be witty and friendly even during the monotonous middle section.
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Format: Hardcover
If you have a shady garden space, this book will make you feel like the luckiest gardener in the world. Ken Druse structured the book around the organization of natural woodland plants: understory, middle layer, and overstory. (Note that this is not the right book for you if you are looking to create a formal shady garden.) The beautiful photographs, both closeup and scenic, and the detailed yet readable text make this book a success on two fronts. There is enough practical advice to take you from designing your shade garden to keeping it healthy and beautiful through the seasons and years. There is even a resource list to help with ordering your plants. Did I mention how amazing the photographs are? This is my favorite garden book so far, and I am accumulating quite a little collection.
Partial shade, dappled shade, and deep shade are all addressed with beautiful pictures of plants and gardens and with descriptive, practical text.
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