Updated: Mar 3, 2022
By Emmy Ulmschneider, Master Gardener
I grew up surrounded by forests and our gardens reflected and blended seamlessly with them. My first impression of local gardens was quite different. Looking at them, I had no sense of place or even where in the United States I was.
But that all changed when I became a Master Gardener and found that there were gardeners, books, and resources which reflected a sense of place. So, here are three books, which I use for inspiration and guidance. These books span thirty-four years and reflect the growing trend towards nature inspired landscapes.
Sally and Andy Wasowski have left a legacy with their books which encourage readers to garden with native plants. My first and favorite is Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region. This book packs so much information into a useful and concise format that will satisfy novice and experienced gardeners. Chances are if you have a question, the answer is in here! This book has it all: building on the why for using plants native to your area, describing the 10 ecoregions of Texas, offering regional landscape designs of actual gardens in each region, and finishing with individual plant descriptions for 399 native Texas plants.
Plant Driven Design: Creating Gardens that Honor Plants, Place, and Spirit by Scott Ogden and Lauren Springer Ogden builds on this idea of blending environment and plants when designing a garden. It makes sense that native plants thrive in conditions that they evolved in. All though not specifically about Texas, the Ogdens’ book reflects their worldwide experience and their assumption that in a garden, plants come first. But, just as there is a relationship between plants there is also a relationship between a garden and people. And when our plant choice and placement reflect the needs of a plant in their native area, the patterns that emerge connect us to the surrounding natural world and the garden design comes alive. The illustrations are beautiful and clearly underscore their writing. I love the lists of plants for design elements, such as designing for light, or quirky characteristics such as plants with good-looking spent flowers or trees with striking bark.
New Naturalism: Designing and Planting a Resilient, Ecologically Vibrant Home Garden by Kelly D. Norris builds on the Ogdens’ call to know your plant and its relationship to other plants in your garden. The book is divided into two sections. The first considers the relationship of plant to place: basic ecology without the jargon. Using this knowledge, we can create gardens which thrive and are truly alive. The second section describes his method of garden design. There are no landscape plans in this book. Instead, he creates plant palettes based on functional properties of plant associations in nature. He applies these palettes to different design situations from open areas to areas close to a home. In this way he shows that our “gardens can be both reservoirs of ecological goodness…and beautiful works of art.” His amazing photography and inspired writing bear out this idea.
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information. Additional information is available at https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and westtexasgardening.org.