What more can we ask from a gardening book than to be inspirational and education? Two new books with more than a little in common manage to strike the right balance of both, complimenting each other, much as the personalities of these enthusiastic and generally delightful gardeners do.
Claus Dalby, the Danish gardener known for his stunning pot displays, and Linda Vater, a popular Oklahoma City gardener with a knack for garden style, dish up a pair of books from Cool Springs Press that are perfect for the start of the gardening season.
Dalby has several books to his credit but Containers in the Garden is his first published in English, much to the delight of his English-speaking fans around the world. It gets to the heart of his signature abundant container design style, one oft repeated but rarely as successfully as he does.
All of the tips and tricks Dalby employs for his growing method are shared, including how to successfully overwinter bulbs in pots, something many gardeners struggle with. The trick, he says, is to put them in a protected spot where they won’t receive water during the winter (after they are watered in during planting). Once they start popping out of the soil they can come out into the light and watering can resume.
Dalby’s method is to plant most pots—his collection of beautiful terra cotta pots is impressive—with a single type of plant, then create mixed arrangements by mixing and matching pots. This allows him to swap out plants where the display is waning for something fresh or make new arrangements many times throughout the growing season.
He’s an equal opportunity planter, filling pots with bulbs, annuals, perennials, vines and even trees or shrubs, and then blending them all together for a stunning show.
Dalby is particularly adept at focusing on monochromatic color schemes rich in texture, employing, for example, chartreuse Japanese maples with yellow daffodils and white tulips for a fresh spring display.
Mimicking Dalby’s methods throughout the season would be difficult for most gardeners to pull off. Amassing what must be thousands of terra cotta pots surely was accomplished over decades, and he has the benefit of greenhouses and a couple gardeners to help with the time-intensive job of planting all those pots, sowing seeds and moving them all around.
But there is plenty of information that will have gardeners reaching for the book often. Dalby is a master of using interesting plants in simple ways, and his color palettes spread throughout the book in glorious large photos are themselves a treasure trove of inspiration. Since Dalby’s method of clustering pots is akin to a deconstructed mixed container planting, the same plants can be mixed and matched in large containers to great effect.
In one such display, for instance, Dalby combines Amaranthus ‘Hopi Red Dye’, chocolate Cosmos, Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’, purple wild carrot and Japanese painted fern for a rich and dark color palette.
It’s those creative combinations that truly make the difference in Dalby’s displays, and you don’t need a pair of gardeners to pull them off.
While Dalby’s book is excellent for providing inspiration on a specific style, Vater’s book The Elegant and Edible Garden paints with a broader brush, focusing more on helping gardeners find and refine their garden style.
Vater, whose structured potager garden is instantly recognizable by her legion of followers on social media, helps readers pull a garden concept, particularly one that incorporates edible plants in with flowers and shrubs, into a cohesive space.
Although she gardens in a relatively small yard in a historic neighborhood, Vater manages to pack vegetables and herbs alongside all other types of plants in her garden a way that any gardener can take inspiration from. She relies heavily on symmetry and yearlong structure, such as the boxwood hedge that forms the backbone of her potager.
Vater’s lessons in the book are valuable for any type of garden, and the quest to find the right garden style is examined thoroughly. She also shares her best practices for everything from organic growing to topiary creation, another of her plant passions.
Like Containers in the Garden, Vater’s book has gorgeous photos and plenty to read. It also incorporates plenty of sidebars and bullet point lists to help gardeners focus on takeaway lessons.
The books share similar cover designs, with a gorgeous photo to draw you in and an elegant linen cover, and in a way they compliment each other on the bookshelf both in look and content, which is a flood of inspiration perfect for the season.