There are few gardening books I can honestly say I just can't put down. Most are meant to be savored a bit at a time--taken in when opportunity or necessity arises. Cookbooks are the same, unless they have great illustrations and quick, tantalizing recipes. Container Gardening for All Seasons is the perfect combination of browsable, illustrated cookbook and garden book that offers great advice in a painless, unintimidating manner. Author Barbara Wise has created a recipe book for container gardeners and those who might have given up on containers for one reason or another.
Wise has thought of everything--from considering a planter's backdrop to its proximity to water. Containers can dry out very quickly, she reminds us all. I loved her Ten Commandments of Container Gardening, beginning with, "Thou Shalt Begin With Soil," to "...A plant without fertilizer is weak. A plant without water is dead." No matter how long a gardener's been at it, there are always little caveats that tend to be overlooked.
The Commandment I seem to continually overlook is Wise's Seventh: "Thou shalt make sure to know the mature size plants will grow during a growing season." But no matter where we fall short in container creation, Wise has provided some really thoughtful advice, not to mention recipes for success.
The book is arranged by season with each containing several recipes for shade, partial sun and full sun. Wise follows up her recipes (each has a great photo and placement diagram) with ideas for holiday containers and resources.
I was excited to see the great use of tropical plants and plants we don't often think to use in container plantings. My favorites? Although it's really hard to narrow it down to just a few, I'll be trying the Mandevilla 'Sun Parasol Crimson' she uses in a combination on pages 102-3, the variegated ginger in the "Subtle Exuberance" container on page 138-39, and the simple yet charming pot of Cyperus 'Baby Tut', Impatiens and Lysimachia aurea.
Container Gardening for All Seasons is going to see some serious use this spring. I'll be carrying with me on all of my combo-pot plant pilgrimages for sure.