Fallscaping: Book Review

– Posted in: Book reviews, Design

Inspiring Ideas and Photos Take the Autumn Garden to the Next Level

I’d read several books by Piet Oudolf and by Wolfgang Oehme, but I never really “got” the fall garden until I read Fallscaping, by Nancy Ondra and Stephanie Cohen. Somehow those two American women made gardening in the fall accessible to me in a way that those two foreign-born men did not.

This doesn’t really surprise me, as I was impressed with how down-to-earth and practical The Perennial Gardener’s Design Primer, their first collaboration, was. They leave no class of plant behind in their quest to help you maximize the beauty from your fall garden, and provide you with dozens of design strategies. And if their words don’t convince you, the photographs by Rob Cardillo will totally wow you. Take a look at this combination of pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) and Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii).

Image of pink muhly grass and the autumn foliage of Arkansas bluestar from the book Fallscaping by Nancy Ondra and Stephanie Cohen

Photo copyright 2007 Rob Cardillo. Used with permission of Storey Publishing

I had seen the bluestar’s fall foliage profiled in many an article about fall color, but that pink muhly–where has it been all my life? (Answer: further south. A cursory search reveals it is only marginally hardy in Zone 5.) I can easily visualize it fronted with colchicums or backed by purple-leaved smokebush.

Another combination I enjoyed was the pairing of ‘Hopi Red Dye’ amaranth and perennial sunflower (Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’).

Image of Lemon Queen perennial sunflower and Hopi Red Dye amaranth taken by Rob Cardillo and featured on p. 25 of Fallscaping by Ondra and Cohen

Photo copyright 2007 Rob Cardillo. Used with permission of Storey Publishing

I really like the contrast of dark maroon with pale lemon yellow, and had tried Cephalaria gigantea with Aster ‘Lady in Black,’ but the cephalaria is too tall. (They don’t call it giant scabious for nothing! Scabiosa ochroleuca would probably work better.)

But it’s not all about glitz and glamor. Ondra and Cohen also appreciate the subtle effects, such as this solitary katsura tree that positively glows.

Image of katsura tree with golden fall foliage

Photo copyright 2007 Rob Cardillo. Used with permission of Storey Publishing

Fall techniques provide how-to

Another feature of the book that I really appreciate is the fall techniques interspersed throughout the book, covering everything from planting bulbs in beds and borders to bringing tender plants through the winter indoors. It’s a pity these techniques aren’t listed in a table or index, because they’re the part of the book you’re most likely to want to refer to again and again.

Garden Plans Tie it All Together for You

For those of you new to the gardening game and perhaps still unfamiliar with the players, a section of the book is devoted to planting plans showing placement in the bed and specifying cultivars. The plants are then further described in a shopping list, which should enable you to find the plants at your local nursery, or for the employees at said nursery to suggest substitutes. But except for these particular plants in the shopping lists, there isn’t a gallery or encyclopedia of plants. Though many plants are described throughout the book, you won’t find them listed alphabetically, because this book is about design strategy, techniques, and inspiration. What you also won’t find is a list of sources, but in this age of internet commerce that’s not too big a problem.

And if you’re still not convinced about the beauty of the autumn garden, you only need to look at author and fellow blogger Nan Ondra’s garden in mid-November. We’ll be talking with Nan tomorrow, so stop by again, won’t you?

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In the end, this may be the most important thing about frost: Frost slows us down. In spring, it tempers our eagerness. In fall, it brings closure and rest. In our gotta-go world–where every nanosecond seems to count–slowness can be a great gift. So rather than see Jack Frost as an adversary, you could choose to greet him as a friend.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

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Jane The Organic Gardener July 12, 2010, 9:57 am

This looks like a fantastic book, I will have to get my hands on a copy. Thanks for the review.
.-= Jane The Organic Gardener´s last blog ..5 Organic Vegetable Gardening Tips =-.

heirloomgardener February 4, 2008, 9:55 pm

I didn’t know Nan was wrote books too! Thanks for the review–I’ll have to buy it.

layanee January 30, 2008, 5:57 pm

I bought this book a while ago and it is a terrific addition to any gardener’s collection. Lots of great tips, pictures, and advice!

Ted B January 29, 2008, 12:46 pm

I love fall and look forward to reading this. ‘The Garden in Autumn’ by Allen Lacey is also worth checking out.

Curtis January 29, 2008, 5:41 am

This looks like a great book. I love the pairing of grasses. I haven’t heard of either of these. Time to breakout the notebook and start writing down names.