Friday, 3 June 2016

Book Review: The New Wild Garden: Natural Style Planting and Practicalities by Ian Hodgson

I was very pleased to be asked if I wanted to review this book as it is a subject I am very interested in.  I have a 'Wild Garden' that makes up about a third of my garden and I am always looking for hints and tips on how to improve it.
When I got this book, however, it turns out it was not what I expected.  The subtitle is 'natural style planting and practicalities', and that is exactly what it means. It is a very practical book which talks you through all aspects of what might be termed a wild garden.

The blurb for the book tells us that we can: 

• Follow 15 step-by-step planting projects to create a range of wild-style gardens using new approaches, whatever your blueprint 
• Create, sow or plant a meadow to suit your space, taste and resources, with planting plans for every plot size from a container, small patch, allotment or an acre, to shrub land, shady areas and water gardens 
• Grow and propagate more than more than 150 plants using the meadow recipes for every soil, situation and wildlife habitat 
• Understand and emulate the new natural style followed by designers including Piet Oudolf, Christopher Bradley-Hole and Dan Pearson

and the book does live up to these claims.  The book starts by looking at some naturalistic landscapes and talking about pioneering designers in this type (I want to say field) of garden design.  It quickly takes you into designing with wildlife in mind and then on to selecting a natural style.  Ian Hodgson is careful to tell us to work with what we have, to think about the conditions in our garden and work with them not against them.

The chapters continue to talk about creating meadow effects and the different ways that can be used to do this.  There is discussions about sowing meadow mixes and the simpler, yet effective, method of using seed mats.  Ian again makes sure that we know what we are getting in to.  The pitfalls and the time and maintenance required to create the meadow we may think we want.  The section on sowing annual seeds is extremely good.  It sounds very basic to say there is a photograph that demonstrates well how seedlings lean towards the light, but this basic information is what a lot of people need.  Ian goes on to explain carefully about hardening off, growing on and planting out.

I like the chapter about creating 'wild pots' very much.  There are colourful meadows and mini woodlands.  There is also a discussion about water in the garden, whether you have a pond, a mini container pond or even some water that is only there for certain times in the year, rather like a winterbourne stream.  There are step by step instructions in how to create a pond for a wild garden.

The book ends with a chapter that is a plant gallery.  This is a very useful feature that talks us through all the different types of plants we might need to consider, from bulbs, to annuals to trees.  There is then a sourcebook that gives us names of contacts and suppliers and finally garden designers.  The designers named include several high profile RHS medal winning firms.  This is just out of the league of many people and also I did wonder if it takes away from the idea that the book will help you create the wild area that you want.  But maybe I am just being picky and it is a very small niggle for what is otherwise an excellent book.

The book is well written and easy to follow.  The pictures used will inspire and also inform.  It moves from discussion about aesthetics to practical step by step points easily and fluidly.  I think the books covers what it sets out to do well and I can happily recommend it.

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