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Succession Planting for Year-Round Pleasure Hardcover – Illustrated, January 1, 2005
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Most gardeners want their borders to be interesting and colorful over a long season, even year-round if winters are not too severe. With this book, Christopher Lloyd shows how he chooses and orchestrates plants so that the borders always look their best. Once having covered the principles of succession planting, Lloyd explores the ingredients necessary to ensure continuously lively borders---from anchor plants and permanent perennials to drop-in plants and self-sowers. Packed with fresh ideas and practical advice for every season, Succession Planting contains all the information you need to create brilliantly successful year-round planting schemes.
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For one thing, Lloyd's long border at his estate at Great Dixter is 200 feet by 15 feet, so many of the effects which he finds practical are not possible in any garden likely to be owned by the bourgeoisie. Further, he gardens in England in perhaps the equivalent to Zone 8. Despite this, he is always looking to push the limits of hardiness with exotic plants. And outside of Britain and coastal Oregon and Washington, there is virtually nowhere in the English-speaking world where the winters are so mild, and yet the summers are not too hot for many of his plants.
So taken altogether, in any combination of 3 plants you might consider, it's a safe bet that 1 of them either can't be grown in your location, or will require extraordinary levels of coddling to get through the winter. At some level there's nothing wrong with that; who hasn't at least considered growing Dahlias or Gladioli, which must be dug up, but can then be stored in most basements? However, his planting schemes are more labor intensive than this. The semi-hardy and tropical plants he loves must be dug up, or have cuttings taken, and many are wintered under glass; to do this for all of his many varied plants, he apparently has at least 3 different temperatures in his greenhouses or cold frames.
Normal (i.e., not superhuman) gardeners use biennials and short-lived perennials (the ones which seed themselves to death) such as Lupines, many Dianthus, Digitalis (foxglove) and Lychnis coronaria, as relatively easy self-sowers, performing enough dead-heading to keep seedlings to a modest level, and hopefully to keep the mother plant alive as well. For Lloyd and his head gardener, Fergus Garrett, the chosen method for all of these but the Lychnis (rose campion) is generally to sow seeds in summer, pot them up and put in a cold frame in October, bed out the next April or May, then rip out the plants as soon as their blooms have faded. Naturally his Lupines make mine look diseased. Damn him to hell and all that. For fuzzy-leaved Verbascums, which he winters in their final positions, he actually suspends a plate of glass over their crowns to keep them dry so they don't rot!
All that said, his plant combinations are exquisite, and many of them are obtainable by most gardeners in temperate climates. More important, the principles he espouses, the color combinations, and the methods of succession among broad types of plants, are all transferable to less intensive methods, or to other plants which are more practical for your situation. Further, I defy anyone to read this book without discovering several new plants he will plan to try out. I am made newly aware especially of several with true- and deep-blue flowers. Buy or borrow this book, but also consider his older books, "The Adventurous Gardener" and "The Well-Tempered Garden." They have essentially no illustrations, but a wealth of cultural information and design ideas and critiques of many plants and cultivars.
That being said, if I'd known that the author had inherited a generations-old garden and worked on it all his life, full-time, in Sussex, England, I probably would not have bought the book. There's no mention of the cost of a garden like his (400 years of compost), no awareness that some people can't garden full time, and no thought given to other climates or sizes or types of terrain. For him, a border is going to be 15 feet wide--for me, that's half my yard. And about half the plants he recommends highly simply will not grow where I live.
To be fair, this information was available in the listing--buried in the back link to Editorial Reviews, half-way down, or if one clicked on Look Inside and then read the back flap. Since this is a highly local gardening book, I would have liked to see that information front and center.
I will probably use a few of these ideas, and as I said, the book is a pleasure to look at and read. It's just not the content I expected or wanted.
That's why the famous British landscaper Christopher Lloyd's wonderful classic "Succession Planting for Year-Round Pleasure" is such a great read. Lloyd was a past master of the perennial border. There is an amazing amount of work needed to keep a meadow or a border in top condition, and the book can guide you.
It's tricky to get plants to cooperate in a mixed border. Invasive weeds move in. Insects and disease devastate a beautiful planting. From the viewpoint of the plants, is about competition for resources with neighbors you may not like.
In Lloyd's book successful succession planting is an art. Like Japanese bonsai, each plant must be carefully studied before it is planted. And you have to be ruthless about culling. A formerly well behaved plant may take over if you don't control it.
If you dream of meadows and perennial borders, I recommend you read Christopher Lloyd's book and spend the winter months drawing up a plan complete with a plant list. Prepare your soil well before you start, and mulch with undyed wood chips to conserve moisture and keep weeds down. When your lovely border is blooming, your dream will have come true.
This book however has been so fun to read -- and, yes the pictures are beautiful. It helps create a garden for each season, and it shows photos from the same garden each season. I've just planted based on some ideas in this book, so I guess I'll need to report back how it works out.