A mas­ter­class in cul­ti­vat­ing mead­ows, from the land­scape de­signer be­hind the Olympic Park and Ox­ford’s Botanic Gar­den.

Gardens Illustrated Magazine - - Japanese-Style Garden -

Re­viewer Mat Reese is head gar­dener at pri­vate gar­den Malver­leys. Here at Malver­leys, I have cre­ated mead­ows on a small scale. I used peren­ni­als dug from other ar­eas in the gar­den, and then over-sowed with wild­flower seeds, which I found reluc­tant to thrive. I only wish I had had this book then as James Hitch­mough’s stud­ies would have made the project more pro­duc­tive.

Sow­ing Beauty has all the hall­marks of a life­time’s work; so in depth and ex­ten­sive is the re­search, (and the pho­to­graphs are es­pe­cially good). The ul­ti­mate goal is to en­able the reader to es­tab­lish peren­nial plant com­mu­ni­ties from seed on a large scale that are not only beau­ti­ful, but will also stand the test of time.

The book starts with a tour of plant com­mu­ni­ties around the world, giv­ing us a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the plants and their ecol­ogy. We are then guided on how to eval­u­ate the site and other fac­tors to con­sider regarding de­sign, user needs, and species se­lec­tion. Seed se­lec­tions are con­sid­ered in great de­tail so that we ul­ti­mately feel confident to pro­duce site-spe­cific mixes that are eco­log­i­cally sus­tain­able, and have multiple lay­ers of in­ter­est from spring into au­tumn. The penultimate chap­ter dis­cusses es­tab­lish­ing and man­ag­ing the plant com­mu­ni­ties and what might mit­i­gate success or fail­ure.

In the fi­nal chap­ter come the case stud­ies. These are par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing and can­did in­sights into the var­i­ous projects Hitch­mough has been in­volved with over the years. Each con­cludes with ‘what worked and what didn’t’, show­ing how volatile and dif­fi­cult the process of sow­ing and es­tab­lish­ing peren­ni­als can be, but also how won­der­ful they can look when suc­cess­ful. I would heartily rec­om­mend this book to any gar­dener and would ex­pect it be on the shelf of ev­ery land­scape ar­chi­tect.

SOW­ING BEAUTY by James Hitch­mough Tim­ber Press, £25 ISBN 978-1604696325

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