Sunday, 20 November 2011

Two From Timber Press: Book Review

I'm writing two reviews for the price of one today because the second follows on naturally from the first, even though they're by different authors.

High Impact Low-Carbon Gardening by Alice Bowe is the first time I've seen design and environmentally friendly gardening in one volume*. I have quite a few books on this topic re planting, but virtually nothing on the hardscaping side of things**. The combination of the two here results in a much more holistic approach to gardening.

This isn't just about designing a whole garden from scratch. You may choose to focus on a chapter or two to give your garden a mini-makeover, such as deciding which plants to use (and their supplier) for a particularly challenging part of the garden or to attract more wildlife.

Since reading this book, I've started to think differently about the changes I'd like to make to my garden. Bowe writes about 'designing for disassembly' i.e. using materials which can be reused or recycled more easily. We may think of our gardens as a permanent feature, but in reality they're constantly changing and even the simple ones I'm thinking about like buying a new bench can be made in a much more thoughtful way.

It's a very readable and practical book with lots of eye-catching pictures, hints and tips, plus quick reference information in the book's margins. There's a comprehensive glossary at the back to help with jargon busting, plus an extensive further reference section should you want to delve more deeply into a particular subject.

* = I'm sure there's others out there (such as those produced by the permaculture movement), so do tell me more in the Comments below, if you've read any of them.

** = There's some in Matthew Wilson's How to Garden in a Changing Climate, but this is more comprehensive.

One of the topics Alice Bowe discusses is green roofs, so it's rather handy I also have a copy of Small Green Roofs by Nigel Dunnett and colleagues. Previous books I've seen on this subject are much more geared towards greening very large properties. This one is designed for people like me who are thinking about a small project at home or for a school or community garden.

The first few chapters explore the principles involved, such as getting the supporting structure right and which plants to choose. There's a useful few pages discussing whether DIY or hiring a company is the right thing for the project you have in mind.

The bulk of the book comprises a number of case studies showcasing various homescale and community green roof projects from around the world. A number of these belong to the authors, some of which highlight the research they've conducted in their own gardens to acquire the knowledge they're now sharing with us.

These and the copious photographs in the book also show just how varied green roofs can be: from a bird table through various sheds and storage spaces, to houses and outdoor classrooms. They're also not just a load of sedums and I'd love to see the trolley storage areas at my local supermarket converted!

On the whole I loved this book, but I sometimes found it difficult to find the answers to particular questions I have about putting a green roof on my shed. Suggested plants for different situations (e.g. shade) would have been particularly useful as well as a summary of the tasks involved from start to finish. The information's there, but it often has to be gleaned from reading through a combination of principles and various case studies.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of both of these books.

5 comments:

  1. Love Timber Press though a bit pricey

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  2. I noticed your disclosure in this post ' I received a review copy of both of these books'.

    That's good practice I think, any yet somehow for books it seems less necessary than for other products - perhaps we are used to book reviews and understand the books are usually provided free, whereas product reviews are more open to becoming advertorial. Not sure - will think about it.

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  3. Hermes - true, but then the books I tend to use the most are usually the Timber Press ones.

    Mark - interesting point. I've always disclosed my freebies and I found out recently this became law in the UK 11 months ago. All my reviews are honest ones - I'll always give you my thoughts on both the good and bad I've found in anything I've received.

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  4. Angela Lambert8 May 2012 09:56

    I like Nigel Dunnett's book "Small Green Roofs" particularly the section about strengthening a building so that it can support the weight of the growing medium and plants...it's something I'm often asked about when talking to people about living roofs

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi Angela - welcome! Yes, that's a particularly good section - Nigel is talking directly from experience in the tips he shares :)

    ReplyDelete
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