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The complete shade gardener.

The Complete Shade Gardener

Once in a while a garden book comes along that is useful, practical, and a pleasure to read. Such a book is The Complete Shade Gardener, by George Schenk (Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1984; $24.95). Don't let the reference to shade throw you: the 288-page book simply recognizes that few of us deal with full sun all day in every part of our gardens.

Schenk is known to many serious Western gardeners for his mail-order rare plant nursery, The Wild Garden, which he ran until 1980 near Seattle. He currently gardens in the Northwest and in Auckland, New Zealand.

Starting with basics. At the outset, Schenk discusses basic principles of shade gardening: choosing a site, preparing the soil, planting, pruning, feeding, and seasonal care. Next follows information new in garden literature.

With sensitivity to any gardener's task, Schenk asks, "How much shade for the plant? The answer depends on the weight and measure of a shifting nonsubstance that varies in intensity.' He then spends seven pages defining different kinds of shade-including light, heavy, cold, dry, moist, and morning.

Getting down to specifics. The bulk of the book evaluates and describes plants that make shade or grow in the shade. Each description tells where the plants will thrive.

Although shade gardening seems a specialty of the more forested parts of the West, Schenk does not slight the milder climates of northern California; among the shade-makers he discusses are Japanese maple (Acer palmatum), Pacific dogwood (Cornus nuttallii), eucalyptus, Jacaranda mimosifolia, Australian tea tree (Leptospermum laevigatum), and California pepper (Schinus molle). He gives comparable attention to shrubs, vines, and ground covers for the warmer, less humid garden.

What tree varieties make good (or bad) shade is among other topics Schenk tackles. If your garden's shade canopy is less than ideal, he suggests such strategies as thinning or removing tree limbs so understory plants with the proper shade tolerance can grow, or adding sand, gravel, or interesting paving below to improve the landscaping.

Throughout the book, he writes with humor and, as he freely admits, with an idiosyncratic style. Don't let his bias put you off; he's earned it through a lifetime of gardening, growing, and designing.
COPYRIGHT 1984 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1984
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