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