The New Shade Garden: Ken Druse
About the Author: Ken Druse is the author of more than a dozen award-winning gardening books, including Natural Companions and Making More Plants. His work is also featured in the New York Times and Martha Stewart Living. He currently resides in New Jersey.
This is my review of the book:
So I have a confession, I am a #fanboy of Ken Druse (the author), and for good reason. In all of his books that I have read, I haven’t seen him trying to shamelessly impress you with his years of knowledge or his awards. Instead he’s more humble with his words. He writes in a way that is informative, without being condescending. His books (and there are many) are all about sustainable best-practices for growing more plants. This book, The New Shade Garden: Creating a Lush Oasis in the Age of Climate Change, is no different. Ken explains the importance of shade in the context of a world that’s only going to get warmer. Which seems hippy-dippy, but in reality Ken’s practical advice is actually a more cost effective way to work with nature instead of thinking that you can outfight or out think her. I really enjoyed the way he teaches the reader to work within the constraints of nature, but also how to place plants aesthetically. All of this is in an attempt to use natural acts in order to let Nature grow the best plants. I’ve actually re-read this book three times, and each time I find some new tidbit. But much of this book is just pure visual candy, which usually results in me doing a lot of internet plant shopping. In the same way kids like to add additional items to the grocery cart, I add too many plants to my shopping. Ken shows us plants used in shade gardens, and informs us about the consequences of adding ill advised plants. Which are unfortunately what I gravitate to. This book breaks down the practical sides of planting a woodland garden into easy to understand concepts. Yet the author also has a nice way of including sub-sections (like they do in school books) about a specific but related subject. For example: making your own concrete planters, ferns as a ground cover, shade growing vines, or my favorite, a section on propagating Arisaema seeds using a toilet tank and lots of flushing. If you don’t have this book in your collection, why even have a garden? This book is an absolute must have gardening reference!
***A note to my Southern/Midwestern growers, the plants suggested in this book are based on the author’s anecdotal experience in New England. Which means that many of the plants suggested in this book for shade gardens wont work in our notoriously difficult climate and soils. But from my cross references, I found some comparable members that will work in our yards, in many of the same plant-families that Ken mentions in this book. So just keep this in mind while you get lost in the seductive images of this book.