Garden Gear - Gardening Books

Book review: Gardening with Antique Plants

Gardening With Antique Plants,
by David Stuart; Conran Octopus Limited;
softcover; 160 pages;
$31.95

Oh, to be in Scotland, where men are gardeners! Who could resist a fellow who believes to see a piece of light autumnal woodland, filled with cyclamen and autumn crocuses, is one of the great excitements of gardening. Perhaps that's the point of David Stuarts Gardening With Antique Plants, that gardening is a matter of sensual perception and excitement, not plant marketing and design trends. Stuart is a columnist for Sunday Times Scotland and writes about the classic perennial and annual plants, bulbs and roses he grows in his own garden as well as others he's created, like the rococo kitchen garden at Painswick in Avon. He defines antique as any plant that's been propagated for more than 100 years, and divides his book into suitable venues for their contemporary use.

Stuart is clever at taking what is old and making it new again. Each chapter offers plant essays and a case study of a garden he's created, with new applications of classic concepts illustrated by instructive text and photos. The section on wildflowers includes a small, contemporary meadow that was once part ordinary lawn, incorporating hardy bulbs and plants available in Canada. Other projects illustrate gardens of topiary and old roses, a productive potager and a Victorian conservatory, with essays on the plants and construction strategies.

This is a generous book in every respect. The large format, substantial text and lavish colour photography are at once seductive and instructive. Stuart's sensual appreciation for full-form roses, buxom peonies and bloodroot -- like tiny double water lilies -- inspires the most dormant gardening soul. Now, really, what is that man's address?
-- Judith Adam

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