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The Free-Spirited Garden

The Free-Spirited Garden
Susan McClure
San Francisco: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: 

paper, 160 p., $18.95.

This is the kind of gardening book that any gardener would adore. It has beautiful photography, engaging text and a title that appears absolutely irresistible, implying as it does that beautiful gardens like those in the book can happen almost by themselves ("gorgeous gardens that flourish naturally," promises the subtitle). Skeptics may scoff, knowing that any garden, no matter how "natural," is going to take work. Still, the author makes a case for low-maintenance, "free-spirited" gardens in several different types of woodland, prairie and gravel habitats. She offers as another type of "free-spirited" garden one that depends on "wandering perennials" — defined here as fail-safe plants as daylilies, monarda and rudbeckia. And even kitchen and herb gardens can be "free-spirited," she maintains, if you let your vegetables and herbs self-sow and spread on their own. There are nice descriptions of some of the "free-spirited" plants you can grow in these various gardens, the photography is attractive and the words are enthusiastic enough to make you want to believe. But that being said, this reviewer found the premise a bit of a stretch. Maybe it was the generous use of the phrase "free-spirited" over 40 times in the first chapter alone. I felt like I was being hit over the head with a shovel.

— Jim Kemper