Feb 3, 2012

Plant Life

A Gardener's Guide
by Susan Berry and Steve Bradley

A gardening book I picked up at a library sale once. Plant Life is a bit different from the other gardening books I've read. Instead of dispensing a lot of gardening advice and how-to's, it explains the biology of plants so that you can understand why certain things are done in the garden. It goes over things like soil structure and chemistry, how roots function, how plants use water, what is going on when seeds are lying dormant, how to prune and shape plants, recycle nutrients through the garden, control weeds, etc etc. All of it hand-in-hand describing the reasons behind gardening knowledge, which I appreciate very much. I also liked that the entire book's focus was on understanding the inner workings of nature, so that you can work with it instead of fight a loosing battle and make things harder for yourself.

I only wish some sections had been longer, often the passages were very brief. The book ended rather abruptly, too, without any kind of concluding chapter or passage. It is is based on a tv series, so perhaps that has something to do with it, but still. It's also based on gardening in Britain, so some of the plants are unfamiliar to me, also the climate and advice thereof did not always quite match with what I'm dealing with in my own yard. I still found it useful, though. Another problem was that the plant lists are sometimes given only with scientific names, other times with common names. I only know a few of the latin names, so usually I was left guessing as to what plants were actually on the list. When I came across a list that included common names I was pleased to recognize many, and wished the other lists were as clear. The inconsistency puzzled me. As always, it pleased me to recognize things in this book that I've learned elsewhere or from my own experience: feed your garden compost, recycled containers make great pots, how to save your own seed, comfrey makes an excellent green manure (I want to add it to my garden next year). The diagrams and photos are excellent, by the way. Very clear.

Some of the fascinating new things I learned: in a field, the weight of earthworms below the ground can equal that of a herd of dairy cattle above! A giant sequoia tree can transpire hundreds of gallons of water in an hour. There is a plant that mimics rocks, it is called, appropriately, the living stone plant. Crazy.

rating: 3/5 ........ 160 pages, 1993

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