ST. JOHN’S, N.L.– “Really couple of, if any, publications are offered on how to garden particularly on acidic soil; in truth, many books supply the opposite– advice on how to make acidic soil less so. We live by the saying, ‘If life provides you lemons … make lemonade.’ Work with nature, rather than attempting to alter it.”
Horticulturalists (and professional photographers) Todd Boland and Jamie Ellison have teamed up to set out that technique, plotting their action through chapters including “Perennials,” “Ornamental Turfs and Grasslike Plants,” “Ferns,” “Deciduous Trees,” “Conifers,” “Shrubs,” “Ericaceous Shrubs,” and “Vines.”
They start by defining acidic soil (“listed below pH 7 is thought about acidic, or sour, while anything above pH7 is thought about alkaline, or sweet”), mapping its regions throughout The United States and Canada (easily articulated maps are among the numerous crisp graphics found within), and representing its chemical and nutrient parts.
Gardening for Acidic Soils: Dealing With Nature to Produce a Lovely Landscape By Todd Boland and Jamie Ellison Boulder Books $34.95 266 pages – Contributed
“Numerous plants are extremely versatile to numerous ecological and climatic conditions. Soil is the basis for success with terrestrial plants and is host to a complicated system of mineral biking, microbial activity, pH, and plant-soil interactions. This system is often described as the ‘soil community’ or the ‘soil food web’ … For the garden enthusiast’s needs, it is enough to know if the soil is alkaline or acidic, since particular nutrients can just be accessed by plants when the soil pH falls within an appropriate range.”
They also discuss the parameters and importance of “Ericaceae,” and the characteristics of woodland and bog gardens: “Maybe the most identifiable bog plants, and the group that amass the most attention, are the carnivorous plants. Even the coldest bog gardens support at least a few species.”
“Many plants are extremely versatile to numerous ecological and climatic conditions.”
The book’s design is extremely user-friendly. Practically every two-page spread is embellished by full-colour photos; many in fact are full-page images. A lot of were snapped by the authors, with the exceptions credited. The scribbler-sized, soft-cover format likewise has an useful heft.
The colour-coded chapters are organized around the various flora, with descriptions including what they look like and where they grow, and “Style Tips.” “Perennials” (the bulkiest section) for instance opens with “aconitum/monkshood,” sharing the number of species (“over 100”), height (“100 to 200 centimetres”), the palette of its petals, a note that bees like the plant, and the caution that they are “highly hazardous. Constantly use rubber gloves when handling them.” When it comes to the “Design Suggestion: These high plants are best utilized in the back of a border or in a wildflower garden.”
“Decorative Grasses” and “Ferns” (as well as the concluding “Vines”), are, at about 10 pages each, the quickest chapters, however still loaded with information and images. sweet flag, sedge, girl fern, and ostrich fern are amongst the plants thought about; that last “combines especially well with hosta, astilbe, and spring woodland wildflowers. The stiff, black, sterilized fronds add interest to a winter season garden.”
“Deciduous Trees” incorporates the most familiar– maples, junipers– and the more unusual, even unique– magnolia, sassafras. The same with “Conifers,” with balsam fir on one page, and Japanese plum yew the next.
“Shrubs” is a particularly attractive section, loaded with vibrant, even fancy blooms, leaves, and berries.
Todd Boland is the co-author of “Gardening for Acidic Soils: Dealing With Nature”. – Contributed
Take the evocatively named “Rose-of-Sharon.” Together with the comprehensive representation (“lavender pink, lavender blue, white, red ‘eye'”) we checked out: “Full sun is finest for maximum flower production. Proliferation is by cuttings. The primary illness are various fungal leaf finding, rust, or canker. Aphids may often be bothersome, however the most severe insect is Japanese beetles.” Ditto for “Ericaceous Shrubs,” with its bearberries, heather, leatherleaf (so much prettier than its name may recommend), and St. Dabeoc’s heath.
The last chapter, and possibly the most curious and alluring (which is saying something here), is “Vines.” The wisteria floribunda, for example, is beautiful. “Maybe no other vine ideal for acidic soil conditions is as spectacular in full flower,” the co-authors compose. “It is second to none for growing over arbours and pergolas.”
“Acidic Soils” is much more than a how-to handbook (not that those aren’t helpful); there’s an entire mentality, even philosophy, here.
And just as those people who can hardly finesse toasting bread can savour a delicious cookbook, the most incompetent or inexperienced gardener can peruse this text and pictures and attempt to dream.
There’s an appendix, “Ericaceous Shrub Species and Cultivars,” and the contents are Indexed by both Latin names and typical names.
Joan Sullivan is editor of Newfoundland Quarterly publication. She reviews both fiction and non-fiction for The Telegram.