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High and Dry: Gardening with cold-hardy plants
420 pages, photographs and watercolors by Cindy Nold
Timber Press, May 2008
High and Dry is the most recent in a series of gardening books originating from Colorado’s Front Range, beginning with Lauren Springer’s The Undaunted Garden, Marcia Tatroe’s Gardening with Altitude, and Gwen Kelaidis’ Hardy Succulents earlier in 2008. So now, surely, the Colorado canon is largely complete, the disciples have greatly pleased and the novitiates give their glowing approval.
Gardening in a Hair Shirt on a Really Hot Day (High and Dry) is an excellent distillation
of the author’s 30-plus years of gardening trials in the Denver metro area. This book is uniquely full of wit, irony and determination as well as detailed information on hundreds of plants originating in the Rocky Mountain and Intermountain West. Gardeners reading this book in cold regions with more than 20 inches of moisture per year are out of luck; this book, as clearly stated by the author, was not written with you in mind. Of course, garden passion and perversity dictates that moist-cold climate gardeners will try to grow many of the featured High and Dry gems anyway.
Cindy Nold’s watercolors are superb and her photography ranges from excellent to adequate. Eriogonums is one group of choice cushion plants/ground covers that are thoroughly examined. Photos of eleven garden worthy eriogonums provide delight throughout a discussion of dozens of species and varieties. Other thoroughly treated groups include yuccas, agaves, cacti and the genus astragalus. Truly this is a book for anyone wishing to increase the palette of plants in their dry garden. An excellent and accurate index invites dipping in to pull out pearls, again and again.
High and Dry is not designed for the short attention span reader. There is no tabular information, no lists, no maps, and no sources for seeds or plants. Information from this opus must be hard-won (except for the index excursions) just as the author has experienced in his trials and tribulations. Thank goodness for Google and other web search engines abilities to quickly provide seed and plant sources for some of the plants discussed. However, an included thorough source list would have done much to help the less-experienced gardener, perhaps perplexed with a plethora of unfamiliar plant names.
Such a source list would surely include: Mesa Garden http://www.mesagarden.com/
Northwest Native Seed, (915 Davis Place S, Seattle, WA 98144-2939); Rocky Mountain Rare Plants http://www.rmrp.com/ Alplains http://www.alplains.com/ Mt. Tahoma Nursery http://www.backyardgardener.com/mttahoma/ La Porte Avenue Nursery
http://www.laporteavenuenursery.com/ High Country Gardens http://www.highcountrygardens.com/about/ Sunscapes Rare Plant Nursery http://www.sunscapes.net/ Miles To Go http://www.miles2go.com/ and Kelly Grummons’ new mail order hardy cacti nursery, http://www.coldhardycactus.com
I commend Bob for not including a reproduction of the useless USDA Plant Hardiness Map.
Creating a truly beautiful garden in any climate is a spiritual journey but is seemingly more so in an arid cold steppe. Thankfully, Bob, and others who know, have moved away from the pabulum espoused by the Xeriscape know-nothings. High and Dry and the other books mentioned above, provide a strong basis for a gardening style that truly suits the Rocky Mountains and most of the cold dry West. The palette of western native plants available continues to slowly increase; I hope that High and Dry accelerates the propagation of the choicest by nursery cognoscenti. Welcome to the Golden Age of horticulture in fly-over country!
On May 17th, 2008, maihuenia added the following:
Marcia Tatroe\'s book title is incorrect and should read \"Cutting Edge Gardening in the Intermountain West\"