Parking  |  Tickets  |  Donate

Consider the Leaf: Foliage in Garden Design

Consider the Leaf: Foliage in Garden Design
Judy Glattstein
Timber Press
Publication Date: 

cloth, 227 p., $24.95

This book is all about the importance foliage plays in garden design, starting with the valid premise that while flowers are beautiful, all plants begin with foliage. And because it is foliage that gives plants their lasting interest, it’s the place you start when designing a garden. Who can argue with that? I am not a garden designer, but I am a gardener, and I came away from this book with lots of ideas for my own garden. This book is full of ideas, like pairing plants with contrasting leaf shapes, such as the linear blades of Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) with the rounded lobes of heuchera or alchemilla; or the lacy fronds of a sweet cicely (Myrrhis odorata) with the tall vase-like form of a Hosta ‘Krossa Regal’. Or, using plants with contrasting colors, like a Japanese maple ‘Bloodgood’ and a Hosta ‘Piedmont Gold’, designed to stand out in a deep green border.

Author Judy Glattstein is obviously a working gardener of considerable experience, and the chapters that deal with shade, herbal and edible plants, as well as those addressing golden, dusky, silver and varigated foliage, are full of plant varieties and helpful suggestions on how to use them in the garden. I couldn’t help but be impressed with the author’s breadth of knowledge, and her ability to present the information in a natural manner, without even talking down to her readers. Chapter 4, which describes the all-yellow Pepsi garden designed by Russell Page, was particularly interesting (in spite of my prejudice against golden cultivars; with few exceptions, such plants have always looked sickly to me, no matter how rare and exotic their pedigree).

I found this book extremely well written, in language that most gardeners will appreciate. The chapters have been sub-divided under headings such as trees, shrubs, groundcovers, perennials, tender perennials, and vines, so the reader can more easily find his or her subject. The accompanying color plates, while attractive, are meant to illustrate the text, and are not, as in many garden books, mere decoration. In short, the photographs work to tell the story, as do the words. As I said in the beginning, I like garden books that give me lots of ideas for my own garden. This one did!

— Jim Kemper, master gardener and volunteer, Chicago Botanic Garden