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The Native Garden


Gardening Books

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  The Native Garden - Design Themes from wild New Zealand

Isobel Gabbites and Rob Lucas (Godwit, 1998)
A wonderful essay, beautifully illustrated with evocative photographs of forest, tussock clad hillsides and plant closeups. The book's focus is on using New Zealand's vast array of unique native plants in the garden.

The authors initally provide an overview of environmental issues of land-use and conservation of our native species in the introductory chapter. Your reaction to this will depend somewhat on your personal stand on these issues, but one cannot help feeling that the book preaches, possibly to the converted!

The coverage of "local character" within differing areas of New Zealand, looking at different geopgraphical regions and their ecology is insightful and useful for those seeking to recreate or conserve native plants indigenous to their particular locality. The plants used here to illustrate the text are wonderful, whether for bloom or striking foliage, and amply demonstrate the glories to be found for the garden from within our own native plants.

There follows a section full of landscaping and design ideas for many different styles of native garden- from the wild or natural-styled garden, to the minimalist and modern. In the latter texture is important and the palette of plants is restrained, contributing to a spare and calm space. The review highlighting the colour range will assist those seeking to control and coordinate colours within their borders or garden. Plants to create colour themed gardens in reds, blues and yellows through to the green and silver foliaged plants so fashionable today are illustrated.

As most gardeners who have grown them know, natives are happier together with other natives. Gabities and Lucas explore the reasons why and how gardeners can use this to their advantage. The issues of soils and the natural range of plants are examined, as well as dealing with some of the more enthusiastic native plants in smaller gardens!

Finally the authors describe particular plants suited to specific conditions- coastal gardens, rural gardens, those apparently hard-to-plant banks, cliffs and retaining walls as well as areas with dry, stony or (the opposite) marshy soils.

The Native Garden draws on ecological principles throughout. The knowledge of the authors in placing plants in the right conditions for them to thrive, and their design skills come through strongly. This is a book to treasure for the insight it gives into our natural heritage and the inspiration it provides in chosing and placing plants in our gardens.

In short, a wonderful book if a little pricey. (Recommended Retail $59.95).
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