(Schiffer Publishing, 2012, $29.99)
So I long ago set aside any dreams I had about designing gardens. But now Jane C. Gates' new book, All the Garden's a Stage, has come along and rekindled the thought that maybe I can put together a pleasingly designed garden after all--or at least one that pleases me. Using the analogy of staging a theater performance, Gates breaks down all the elements involved in garden design. She begins by covering basic plant needs, so that even beginning gardeners will be comfortable moving on through the rest of the production. In the chapter titled "Bringing the Characters Together," she introduces the concept of plant communities--grouping plants that are well-suited for each other and have similar needs. In "The Show Must Go On" she covers maintenance issues like watering, lighting, and sustainable gardening methods. "Putting Together the Show" really brings design issues into focus and offers simple design tips that even a non-designer like me can grasp. Gates then wraps it all up by introducing the "cast"--profiles of desirable plants grouped by settings such as "Mountaineers," "Tropical Beauties," "Beach Babes" and more.
Compared to so many garden books that present their topics in more or less the same fashion, All the Garden's a Stage is a fresh, new take on planning a garden. It's basic enough for a beginning gardener, but can also guide a gardener who's experienced with growing plants but needs help in putting together a cohesive garden plan. The tone of the book is light-hearted, right down to the charming illustrations by the author, but the information is solid and usable. I'll be referring to this book again and again as I continue to try get my garden show in shape.