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On the Wild Side: Experiments in New Naturalism

On the Wild Side: Experiments in New Naturalism
Keith Wiley
Timber Press
Publication Date: 

cloth, 256 p., $34.95

Keith Wiley has assembled in this book some of the most gorgeous pictures of naturalistic plants you could imagine. Even if you don’t have a garden in which you would like to introduce some wilder elements, you might want to read the book just for the wonderful photographs. The locations range from the Skilpad Nature Reserve, Namaqualand, South Africa, to the alpine meadows near Mürren, Switzerland, or the sagebrush, pines and Indian rice grass of New Mexico.

In his Introduction, Wiley explains that if you think about how plants grow in nature, "it will not take you long to realize that it bears no resemblance to the way we grow these same plants in our gardens." He cites specifically the example of wild plantings found in Crete. In any of the naturalistic landscapes he studies, Wiley points out that you should first observe the major elements, and then the "balance of trees to shrubs, perennials and grasses ... sunlight to shade." Part 1 covers plants, broken down into chapters on various types such as bulb meadows and woodland floor; deserts and semi–arid landscapes; mountain coast and clifftop; and prairie scrub and grasslands. Part 2 addresses the garden landscape and its shape and structure, including the use of rocks and water as focal points.

This is a lovely book, offering imaginative ideas on how to integrate wild elements found in a diverse range of locations around the world into your own garden, just as Wiley has done in Garden House in England. Wiley is a wonderful observer of what he calls "every nuance and detail" of the countryside and his photographs and writing transmit this vividly to the reader.

— Joan Richards, volunteer, Chicago Botanic Garden