Garden Revolution How Our Landscapes Can Be a Source of Environmental Change

By Larry Weaner and Thomas Christopher

AHS Book Award winner

This lushly-photographed reference is an important moment in horticulture that will be embraced by anyone looking for a better, smarter way to garden. Larry Weaner is an icon in the world of ecological landscape design, and now his revolutionary approach is available to all gardeners. Garden Revolution shows how an ecological approach to planting can lead to beautiful gardens that buck much of conventional gardening’s counter-productive, time-consuming practices. Instead of picking the wrong plant and then constantly tilling, weeding, irrigating, and fertilizing, Weaner advocates for choosing plants that are adapted to the soil and climate of a specific site and letting them naturally evolve over time. Allowing the plants to find their own niches, to spread their seed around until they find the microclimate and spot that suits them best, creates a landscape that is vibrant, dynamic, and gorgeous year after year.

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Book details

  • Format: hardback (with dust jacket)
  • Contains: 328 pages, 271 color photos & line drawings
  • Dimensions: 8.5×10 in (216×254 mm)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-60469-616-5
  • ISBN-10: 1-60469-616-8
  • Published: May 18, 2016

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Reviews

as rated by 73 users on Goodreads

“This beautiful book shows us that guiding natural processes rather than fighting them is the key to creating healthier landscapes and happier gardeners. An essential addition to our knowledge of sustainable landscapes.” —Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home

“An essential reference for conservation-minded home gardeners and stewards of larger landscapes.” —Rick Darke, author of The Living Landscape and The American Woodland Garden

“There’s inspiration here, from the honesty with which the authors address climate change to the experiential wisdom they bring to every aspect of the complex process of creating a landscape.” Booklist

“In this text-heavy volume, a landscape designer and a horticulturist teach us that gardening can be a partnership with nature when gardeners shed conventional practices, exploit plants’ life cycles, and embrace unpredictable plant communities.” Library Journal

“What is marvellous about reading this book is the powerful sense of those lifetimes of knowledge and skill being shared, and so concisely—there is hardly a spare sentence here.…​Illustrations are plentiful, clear and enticing.…​I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who wants to work with wild or ecological planting styles; we can all learn a lot from it.” Gardens Illustrated

“A guide to every aspect of a new kind of garden based on age-old laws—nature’s law.” Country Gardens

“There’s a way to design and plant that’s beneficial to the environment, that looks beautiful, and that saves you—the homeowner— from a lot of toil and trouble.…​the principles he outlines can be adapted for almost any garden, so it’s a book that you’ll want on your bookshelf.…​This is a book that’s long, long overdue.” Garden Design Online

“This book shows how [Larry Weaner] evaluates the natural habitat, chooses plants, and watches them grow and reseed, then edits if necessary.…​This is a book that will guide a designer through a planning process, including a demonstration of the use of themed maps to show microclimates and other features of a site.” San Francisco Chronicle

Garden Revolution reinforces what we’ve been told again and again—and thankfully are beginning to heed—that as garden makers, we need to pay attention to the local ecology.…​Throughout the book, practical content is presented alongside anecdotal planting examples. . . their observations and analysis open our eyes and invite us to adopt an approach that can be deeply meaningful and filled with ‘surprises and revelatory events.’” Pacific Horticulture Magazine

Garden Revolution gives land managers the toolkit to work with land on large and small scales in order to create ecologically sensitive landscapes. For anyone who is a steward of land or interested in the topic, this is a book to find and read sooner rather than later.” NYBG’s Plant Talk

“A thoughtful meditation on ecology, garden design, and theory of native landscapes.” Garden Collage

About the authors

  • Larry Weaner is a leading figure in North American landscape design and founder of the educational program series New Directions in the American Landscape. His firm, Larry Weaner Landscape Associates, is known for combining ecological restoration with traditions of fine garden design and has recieved the top three design awards from the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and the Regional Impact Award by the New England Wild Flower Society. Weaner was awarded the Lady Bird Johnson Award by the Native Plant Center at Westchester Community College.

  • Thomas Christopher is the author of more than a dozen gardening books. He has written for The New York Times, The Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society, and Horticulture Magazine, as well as serving as a columnist for House & Garden and a contributing editor at Martha Stewart Living.

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From the back cover

Liberate your landscape!

Traditional gardening practices are time-consuming and labor-intensive, and result in landscapes that require constant upkeep. But there’s a better way: by following ecological principles, we can have landscapes that are alive with color, friendly to local wildlife, and evolve over time—with much less work and effort. Larry Weaner and Thomas Christopher show you exactly how to create these exciting, stimulating landscapes.

Book excerpt

Ecological Gardening

An Introduction

I have been profoundly influenced by the activists who, since the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (and in some cases even before that), have been working to reverse the harmful habits into which much of gardening had fallen. There are powerful environmental reasons for bringing our gardens into a sounder relationship with nature. However, I am not hoping to convert readers by teaching them that this kind of gardening is morally or environmentally the right thing to do. Instead, I honestly believe that having once sampled an ecologically driven approach, gardeners won’t want to do anything else. For me, the most persuasive reasons are that it’s easier and far more rewarding to transform the human landscape in this fashion.

Through my many years of experience, I have learned to treasure the subtle and unpredictable beauties of a garden that collaborates with the local ecology. I prefer to work with a landscape that, at least in part, evolves over time according to natural processes of change and plants itself. I find the diversity of an evolving garden’s plant and animal residents fascinating, and the way in which the landscape or garden recruits new inhabitants as it evolves is one of its most satisfying and richest aspects.

A large part of what I advocate is the shedding of conventional gardening’s counter-productive practices. The ways in which gardeners till and weed, irrigate, and fertilize their plots, for example, cause perpetual disturbance to the ecologies of those areas and create an irresistible invitation to invasive species. And the ways we were taught to combat those invaders ensure that the struggle will never end. Unfortunately, though perhaps not surprisingly, many of these counter-productive practices have been perpetuated by the more recent schools of “natural gardening” that, though they have an admirable emphasis on the use of native species, still commonly arrange and maintain plantings in a conventional way.

These impediments can best be corrected by a return to first principles, by studying how plants and wildlife associate in a natural state and basing our gardening on that. My experiences have taught me that this change of behavior brings not only better results—a healthier, more dynamic landscape—but also one that demands far fewer inputs. I am selfish enough to have found the latter a powerful motivation to change, and I suspect readers will react similarly.

In this alternative approach, less is truly more. Minimizing intervention and letting the indigenous vegetation dictate plant selection and, as much as possible, do the planting, produces a garden landscape that flourishes without the traditional injections of irrigation and fertilizers and is better able to cope on its own with weeds and pests. The gardener’s input becomes a matter of directing the garden ecosystem’s evolution into desirable paths and capitalizing on positive developments as they occur. This more fluid style of gardening frees the owner from the drudgery inherent in the traditional attempt to keep the landscape fixed according to some artificial blueprint.

At the same time, this kind of gardening fulfills many of the goals promoted by the environmental activists. It turns the landscape from a consumer of resources and a polluter into a source of environmental renewal: a nexus of stormwater absorption and purification, a sanctuary for indigenous wildlife, and a protector of biodiversity. These are all important, even essential. What I relish most, though, and what I believe will speak most powerfully to readers is the unique beauty and rich experience that this ecologically based style of gardening produces.

For all of those galvanized by the message of such environmental gardening manifestos as Sara Stein’s Noah’s Garden and Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home, this book is the next step, the way to turn philosophy into practice.