Garden Gear - Gardening Books

Book review: Get creative with conifers

Gardening With Conifers by Adrian Bloom
Firefly Books, 192 pages,
softcover, $24.95

This is an excellent book filled with breathtaking photos taken by the author and his son, Richard. It's so inspiring, it almost makes me want to dig up my hostas and daylilies entirely and plant conifers. But by using the many suggestions given for plant combinations, I could simply add conifers instead.

Alan Bloom, Adrian's father, ran a wholesale nursery in Norfolk, England, which introduced many unknown plants and new varieties and was directly responsible for the upsurge in gardening with peren-nials. Adrian has collected conifers with that same passion, and this book is the result of his personal observations over many years.

Introductory chapters deal with the history, naming and growth habits of conifers. A wonderful series of photos depicting a single fir cone's development throughout the year was an eye-opener. Using conifers as specimen plants and in mixed plantings in landscapes is described in detail, and good ideas that will easily translate into the home garden, including growing conifers in containers, are shown.

Almost half the book is devoted to plant descriptions that include the height and spread at 10 years, along with the “ultimate” height. Unfortunately, the hardiness zones are Ameri-can and are not very accurate. Many of the plants given as U.S. Zone 5 or higher are growing in the Dominion Arboretum in Ottawa (U.S. Zone 4). Also on the downside, many of the conifers described are very difficult to obtain unless you live near a specialist nursery.

The final section is on caring for your conifers, offering advice on planting, pruning, propagation and pest control.

-Trevor Cole is the former curator of the Dominion Arboretum in Ottawa, and author of The New Ontario Gardener.

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