Books and

The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden

by Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy, 2014. Reviewed by Marlene Suter, DCMG

Brief Summary
Most gardeners today understand the importance of incorporating more native plants in our landscapes for the broader benefit of our environment, but they may be challenged to design their outdoor living space with the whole picture in mind. The premise of this book is that by observing and understanding the natural landscape, with its interrelationships of species and layers of living organisms, and replicating those layers in our home gardens, we can create gardens that go beyond ‘decoration’ to sustain wildlife and support biodiversity.

Key Features
True confession- I bought this book for the pictures. It’s full of incredible photographs, most taken by Rick Darke, of plants, birds, animals and other aspects of the landscape that illustrate the concepts the authors are teaching. If you were reluctant as a child to transition from picture books to chapter books, this book will satisfy your visual learning needs and reawaken your childlike sense of awe at the beauty, mystery and diversity of nature.

Favorite Chapter
From a purely practical perspective, the last section of the book stands out as wonderful resource. It’s an 80-page plant list by region, keyed to 20+ ecological and aesthetic landscape functions (for example: cover for wildlife, nest sites for birds, pollen, summer flowers, fall foliage, shade/cooling). The Mid-Atlantic region is predominant, as it’s the home of the authors, but Ohioans will find mostly familiar plants on the list.

Key Takeaways
This book will interest both new and veteran gardeners. The authors clearly explain how landscapes really work, and why they’re important not only for people and their aesthetic pleasure, but for all the life forms that share our space. Understanding the various layers of both wild and domestic landscapes, from the ground to the herbaceous plants to the shrubs and tree canopies, enables us to plan sustainable landscapes that serve many purposes and appeal to both wildlife and the gardener’s artistic eye.

Recommended Because
It’s a beautiful, well-researched and informative book by two gardening giants, that you can return to time and again for inspiration as you create and tend your own living landscape.

Noah’s Garden: Restoring the Ecology of our own Backyard

by Sara Stein, 1993. Reviewed by Terri Litchfield, DCMG

Brief Summary
A history of Stein’s property in Pound Ridge NY after originally taming the land into a typical suburban lawn and garden, resulting in the loss of a myriad of life forms in the garden. The book documents her efforts to “ungarden” in order to support wildlife and restore the ecosystem. Demonstrates principles of gardening for biodiversity years be-fore Doug Tallamy’s “Bringing Nature Home” made these ideas mainstream.

Key Features
Of interest to gardeners of all skill levels. Includes illustrations. Gives an example of how these gardening practices such as replacing lawn with native plantings in adjacent yards create “mosaic ecosystems,” or what are considered wildlife corridors today.

Favorite Chapter
Chapter 11, Smiles of Vanished Woods; describes the complexity of nurturing natural landscapes with several examples of unintended consequences

Key Takeaways

  1. Coevolution of wildlife and plants results in plants that bloom when their pollinators require the pollen and nectar, thus a need for blooming plants from early spring through late fall, not for the gardener’s pleasures but for the very existence of certain insect species in the landscape.

  2. Soil organisms play an important role in the ecosystem of natural areas and landscapes. These ideas are mainstream now but not widely understood in the 90’s.

  3. In 1990 a local town board (Pound Ridge, NY) prohibits removal of trees in a number of situations because of the disruption it causes to the ecosystem. This law seeks to protect land from soil erosion and flooding; reduce air pollution; provide oxygen; temper noise; and provide natural habitat for wildlife. Yet it permits “radical surgery” in the landscape, for instance the removal of all understory trees and shrubs, thus disrupting the ecosystem services the law sought to protect. “They can’t legislate woodland complexity or impose species diversity.”

Recommended Because
It pulls together so many concepts which are widely accepted today but which must have seemed farfetched at the time of publication

Reading Lists

Native Plants

Doug Tallamy

Bringing Nature Home by Douglas W. Tallamy

Nature’s Best Hope by Douglas W. Tallamy

The Living Landscape by Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy

The Nature of Oaks by Douglas W. Tallamy

Essential Native Trees and Shrubs by Tony Dove and Ginger Woolridge

A Garden of Wildflowers by Henry W. Art

Garden Revolution by Larry Weaner and Thomas Christopher

Gardening with Prairie Plants by Sally Wasowski and Andy Wasowski

Growing and Propagating Wildflowers by Harry R. Phillips

Midwestern Native Trees and Shrubs by Charlotte Adelman and Bernard L. Schwartz

Native Plants of the Midwest by Alan Branhagen

Native Trees for North American Landscapes by Guy Sternberg

Planting in a Post-Wild World by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West

The Wildflower Gardener’s Guide by Henry W. Art

Wildflower Perennials for Your Garden by Bebe Miles

The Wild Gardener by Peter Loewer