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Another Good Garden Book for Winter


Does your garden wear the “layered look?”

“Garden layers are made up of a variety of plants, some with complementary or contrasting colors, others with interesting shapes or textures,” writes David Culp, author of a new book, The Layered Garden (Timber Press, $34.95). “Layers are more than just perennials, or annuals or bulbs, or groundcovers — they are more than just the ground layer of plants that are the sole focus of many gardeners.”

This is a delightful book on many levels. Rob Cardillo’s photography is stunning. The enchanting close-ups of snowdrops and hellebores and bees on an angelica blossom, as well as the views of Culp’s garden from the roof of his 18th-Century farmhouse, the picket-fenced vegetable garden and benches tucked along the hillside where dogwoods and daffodils bloom, make me wish I could get outside right now and begin planting.

Photos: Rob Cardillo

This book is a good replacement for all the boring “garden-in-a-box” television shows that illustrate how to get the “instant” garden. Instead, Culp takes us from his journey as a child when his grandmother introduced him to gardening to the fabulous two-acre garden in southeastern Pennsylvania that he has established with his partner, Michael Alderfer over the past two decades.

The book provides a basic lesson in layering — how to choose the right plants for your garden by understanding how they grow and change throughout the seasons, how to design a layered garden, and how to maintain it. An avid plant collector, Culp developed the Brandywine Hybrid strain of hellebores and has almost every strain of snowdrop. So, pick up a copy and sit down with a cup of steaming tea. Winter will be with us for another seven weeks.

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questions

Is there a best time to plant tulips? I see them at the garden centers in late summer but I am afraid that it is too early to plant them. If I wait too long, I might forget all about them.

Miniature gardening is the rage. What enchanting miniature plants work well in a shaded area?

What does it take to make a climbing hydrangea flower? Ours was planted 3 years ago and is growing energetically. It’s in a protected nook near the patio and gets very little direct sunlight, but doesn’t act sun starved. We gave it a shot of slow release fertilizer on planting, and once since. Somewhat inadvertently it gets plenty of water, since the hose spigot is nearby and leaks, but drainage does not seem to be the problem. It now fully occupies an 8-foot trellis but shows no interest in flowering. Is it youth, lack of sun, too much or too little fertilizer, bugs, lack of pruning or what? When do these plants bloom and what conditions do they like?

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