Cover Image: Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East, Revised and Expanded

Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East, Revised and Expanded

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Member Reviews

Its a beautifully illustrated book , Designing Gardens with Flora of the American East approaches landscape design from an ecological perspective, encouraging professional designers and backyard enthusiasts alike to intensify their use of indigenous or native plants. Emphasizing the importance of indigenous plant gardening and landscape design, Summers provides guidelines for beginning gardeners as well as experienced designers. So no matter what kind of gardner you are you will enjoy this book and its expert advice.

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Designing gardens with flora

Although very detailed and educational, there’s a tone to the writing of the book that I don’t enjoy.

Some details I appreciated:
Tables sprinkled throughout help break up the text and highlight key information.

Indigenous alternatives are offered so you have options when deciding what to buy.

I will say- I will never look at a Norway Maple quite the same way again.

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This is a fantastic book about landscape and garden design for the American East. It covers a range of topics but focuses primarily on the importance and use of native plants. The book explains why indigenous plants are essential to pollinators, insects, birds, mammals, etc. It also details the impact of non-indigenous and invasive plants on the environment and wildlife.

The best part about this book is that it gets into specifics. It provides lists of the best trees, shrubs, vines, ferns, perennials, wildflowers, grasses, etc., for eastern gardens. The items on each list were chosen based on how beneficial they are to wildlife. This is helpful for someone like me trying to select plants. For example, I wanted a berry-producing tree and wasn't sure what to get. Now I know I should get a chokecherry tree because of how many beneficial insects it helps and how many birds it can feed.

The book also contains actual garden plans for every situation: urban backyards, suburban backyards, townhouses, subdivisions, community gardens, corporate businesses and parking lots, empty fields, etc. It encourages everyone to follow the Douglas Tallamy path of turning backyards into miniature national parks.

The book's images, including pictures of various gardens and garden designs, provided visual engagement and gave me lots of ideas that I plan on incorporating into my own backyard. For example, I plan to put up trees and shrubs along my property line to provide privacy and a hedgerow for birds.

I learned things from this book that I had never heard before, even though I have read multiple books on gardening for wildlife. For example, I now understand why it is important for butterflies to have wildflowers or something else besides regular mowed grass planted under backyard trees.

I can't think of anyone this book wouldn't benefit, and I strongly recommend it to anyone in the American East region who wants to plant a garden or maintain a responsible backyard area.

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I absolutely think that all gardeners should be focusing on native plants in their gardens, and Carolyn Summers gives about a bajillion reasons for doing this (I was fascinated to learn about the various species that require ONE specific type of plant in order to survive). I was able to take some great inspiration here. That being said, Summers is advocating a fairly significant overhaul for most people, including me (and I focus on natives!) and at times I found it overwhelming.

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This is an incredibly comprehensive book on why to use native plants in your garden and on your property, along with copious amounts of information on how to do it and what plants to use for what purposes. I loved all the photos of examples and appreciated that she also had information for commercial properties, fields, swamps, ponds, shaded areas, condos and much more. Very well done.

I read a temporary digital copy of this book for review.

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Thank you Rutgers University Press for providing this book for review consideration via NetGalley.

This is my first DNF, here’s why:

I had expected a light guide on creating an eco friendly garden…what I read was a jumbled mess of misspelled words, extra spaces, countless pages were missing the letter F in every applicable word, among other words and sentences that I couldn’t even make out what they meant due to missing type. I felt like I was left with someone’s bored Uncle that wouldn’t stop talking. It also had a preachy vibe that made you feel like they were gifting you with a knowledge that you weren’t smart enough to figure out on your own.
Honestly, this was so bad I wondered if they released the first draft in error. I would not recommend this book. My advice would be to go back and edit the book several times and restructure to provide positive, enlightening ways to incorporate the intended goal. I would prefer to provide private feedback on this one rather than publicly in the hopes that the feedback will make a difference in the end result.

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