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Chalk and Limestone Gardening: A Guide to Success on Alkaline Soils

Chalk and Limestone Gardening: A Guide to Success on Alkaline Soils
Sarah Coles
Crowood Press
Publication Date: 

paper, 144 p., $30.00

British garden writer Sarah Coles firmly believes that limestone and chalk landscapes can have inspiring beauty. This is reflected in her guide to gardening on alkaline soils. Using examples of great gardens in limestone and chalk regions of Britain, she cites some of the oldest and most impressive properties, noting that it was not until ericaceous plants from Asia gained popularity in Britain in the early twentieth century that gardeners moved away from limestone gardening. In recent times, as gardeners began to value the native habitat, the focus has returned to growing plants that benefit from alkaline soils.

In a clear, easy-to-understand style, the author discusses the chemical composition of soils and amendments that will assist plant growth. Then she considers the various types of plantings (trees, shrubs, etc.) and species, giving a personal assessment of their individual aesthetic characteristics. In the appendices, there is an extensive listing of plants recommended for alkaline soils and plants unlikely to succeed. To encourage readers pursuing these special landscapes, the author provides a list of British gardens on alkaline soil that are occasionally open to the public. Despite the fact that American readers may be frustrated because certain British cultivars are not available here, the book is useful for its classification of those species that do well on alkaline soil.

— Marilyn K. Alaimo, garden writer and volunteer, Chicago Botanic Garden