Sustainable Landscapes & Gardens

Horticulturist and plant scientist Dr Linda Chalker-Scott’s Sustainable Landscapes & Gardens is an insightful and no-nonsense approach to sustainable gardening. It is a collection of integrated text books with contributions from 21 experts from horticulture and academia. Now let’s not assume that this is a dry scientific tome, in fact it achieves its goal of delivering scientific text in a palatable way to suit all garden lovers who hunger for more research.

The book is divided into five chapters that are themselves individual booklets contained in a binder. This allows for the relevant chapter to be removed as needed as opposed to hauling around a large reference book. Now this appeals to my logical nature. Well, we gardeners are a practical bunch after all!  There are also additional supplementary chapters that can be purchased from the author’s website.

The author generously shares her vast knowledge of horticulture in an engaging way. Her style is friendly yet never light weight; scientific research is the back bone to this book. From the start we are guided through the difference between horticultural fact and myth, enabling us to decipher marketing text and peer reviewed findings. Clarity about the merits of scientific research is eloquently set out with a rundown of creating a scientific experiment, discerning reliable sources and discussing the meaning of sustainability. She has given the reader the tools to critically examine the science of gardening, and all that in just chapter one!

Planting, Taking the Plunge guides the reader through the sometimes confusing process of purchasing healthy plants, all delivered with wonderful practical insight. This chapter also covers the art of tree planting however with a twist! This is where the conventional wisdom of horticulture is usurped by pure scientific research. Peer reviewed findings indicate that woody perennials thrive when planted as bare root.  Linda pulls no punches as she advices the reader to wash away all the compost from the roots of a container tree and give the cleaned roots a really good old tussle, and even a root prune to stimulate new growth. These roots are tough, they can take it and the research supports this claim!

Another unusual departure in tree planting is the objection to the use of organic soil amelioration. In fact a tree planted with regular native soil will establish and thrive long term in comparison to those with organic material included in the back fill. In a step by step guide, the reader is led through the process of tree planting with clear instruction. This approach illustrates the best practice for healthy sustainable planting.

Interior chapters present the finer points of soil type, pesticides and proper usage and nutrient management. The subject of nutrient excess and the impact on the environment underpins the ethos of the book. The relevance of relying on indicator plants to discern nutrient levels as revealed in the lush green foliage of healthy plants. Let the plants tell us what they need and not apply fertilizers adroitly is the principle message.  In fact the main theme of the book is embedded in common sense and having the confidence to rely on observation of plant health. This is clearly illustrated in “What’s Wrong With My Plant?” chapter, a combination of examples and colour images create an important reference for all gardeners.

Dr Linda Chalker-Scott’s gift is to present plant science and the often m

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