“Fearless Gardening: Be Bold, Break the Rules, and Grow What You Love” by Loree Bohl. Timber Press 2021
A delightful book that oozes passion from a gardener who understand why we create gardens. The author not only tears apart the stiff rules created by the industry, but explains why. It should come as no surprise that the nursery industry would love to have one set of rules for us all to follow; one plant that everyone would want in their garden, but that would be just as bad as all of us having neatly tended lawns in our front yards.
Gardens are medicine for our hearts and our minds and this book provides an open, honest and approachable view into the author’s gardening philosophy. I also love that this book dispenses with half the book being filled with plant pages. While they may be great to help you identify the plants featured in the book, that is not the purpose of this book. It wants you to find and follow your own path and a focus on plants would make this a book all about the Pacific Northwest. It does provide a few suggestions for plants in certain categories that stretch the rules, stretch your zone, stretch the amount you can cram into the space.
As the author reminds us a few times,Fearless gardening means you should have some fear, because if you don’t then perhaps you aren’t pushing the limits enough, striving for what may be possible and being ready to accept mediocrity.
A couple of words keep coming back into focus throughout the book – cramscaping and pots. Cramscaping is making sure that no square inch goes to waste. That includes the vertical axis as well which can also be used for displays of air plants and Bromeliads as well as three dimensional planting. Pots allow new plants to be tested out, grouped to make ever changing displays, contain unruly plants and so much more – and those pots extend to water gardens, bog gardens and more.
As well as using her own garden as an example, she also talks about many other gardens, both private and public. They came from all over the country giving a glimpse into what is possible in areas outside of the Pacific Northwest, even though that is where the majority of the examples come from.
Many of the sentiments contained in this book convey my own views. I am luckier than the author in that I have a good zone better on the cold end, but lack the heat that she enjoys in the Willamette Valley. Being on the coast there are things that I lust over from her yard, but also smile a little when she talks about how difficult certain plants are.
We all want to utilize what we have been given to the best possible advantage and then try and push it just a little.
The book is a quick read, arranged like a set of blogs. The book formatting is nice and there is a good mix of text and pictures.
The last chapter of the book is a tour around five gardens in the Pacific Northwest, including the author’s own garden. Each of the garden creators, or head of the spaces, provides some recommendations and encouragement. This one is by far the best piece of advice from the owners of Felony Flats botanical garden: “Gardening can demand large chunks of your time. Don’t be afraid to let the house chores slide during gardening season; that’s what winter is for.” Except that is what I catch up on the digital aspects of the garden. Sorry house – you will remain a mess!