Quill and Quire

REVIEWS

« Back to
Book Reviews

An Ecological Guide to a North Temperate Garden: Bioplanning for the Next Millennium

by Diana Beresford-Kroeger

Voltaire’s Candide saw a world full of misery, and concluded that one must cultivate one’s garden. Those of us who love gardening anyway will be glad to know that we really can make a difference, even in the heart of the city.

Don’t be put off by the publisher’s long, daunting title – An Ecological Guide to a North Temperate Garden: Bioplanning for the Next Millennium will not order you to let your garden go wild, or restrict yourself to plants that love your cold, hard clay. It will help you to create beautiful, fragrant flower borders using plants that flourish in our crazy Canadian climate, while providing an essential habitat for a wide variety of living things.

Diana Beresford-Kroeger will be familiar to CBC listeners in the Ottawa region as a frequent guest on Radio Noon’s weekly gardening show. She came to horticulture with the eye of a painter and the formal training of a botanist, chemist, and veterinary surgeon. Her garden is living proof that organic methods of deterring pests and plant diseases can be just as efficient as patrolling one’s turf with poison controls, and the results can be even more spectacular.

You don’t have to be an experienced gardener to use this book, but you will need other books to help you, such as Marjorie Harris’s Ecological Gardening (1991). Given the number of tomes already on the market for the humus-minded, Beresford-Kroeger has wisely decided not to cover the basics of composting, propagation, transplanting, mulching, or lawn care (although anxious lawn-lords will be relieved to hear that, to be successful mini-ecosystems, gardens need an expanse of turf as a landing strip for birds).

The core of A North Temperate Garden is a profile of the favoured hardy perennials, biennials, bulbs, corms, and tubers that form the backbone of the flowering border. Orchestrating such a border, interplanting esthetically and culturally compatible species for a balanced succession of bloom, with the most efficient use of space, is the gardener’s greatest challenge – like conducting an orchestra when the players keep changing. This is not a book for those who are content to fill their beds every spring with the same old selection of everflowering annuals from the supermarket.