Gardening: Learn how to create a ‘living landscape’

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News

Today many homeowners are looking for landscaping that nourishes the environment and attracts birds, bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects. But they also want it to be attractive, a space where kids can run and play, as well as provide privacy and possibly a veg garden.

Sounds like a tall order, but the collaboration of Rick Darke and Richard Tallamy in the gardening book “The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden” (Timber Press $39.95), offers a model that anyone can follow.

Inspired by examples, the book gives strategies for making and maintaining a diverse, layered landscape — one that offers beauty on many levels, provides outdoor rooms and turf areas for children and pets, incorporates fragrance and edible plants, while providing shelter as well as sustenance for wildlife. It’s richly illustrated with Rick Darke’s superb photographs and his keen eye for design and both he and Tollamy’s understanding of how healthy ecologies work, “The Living Landscape” will enable you to create a garden that is full of life and fulfills both human needs and the needs of wildlife communities.

Darke’s work does not stop there.

When author Annik La Farge wrote “On the High Line,” (Thames and Hudson, $19.95 paperback), the guide to America’s favorite new urban park, she turned to Darke, a renowned landscape designer, photographer and writer, to provide the horticultural wisdom and understanding about the development. Having spent years photographing the High Line, Darke, also contributed photographs as well as content and the preface to the book.

A New York City linear park built in Manhattan on an elevated section of a derelict New York Central Railroad spur, the High Line — after years of being an eyesore — has gained international recognition as an award-winning urban landscape redevelopment.

At 2 p.m. Oct. 10, Darke will present “The Living Landscape: Regenerative Design for Home Habitats and Urban Spaces,” at the Detroit Institute of Arts Marvin and Betty Danto Lecture Hall, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit.The lecture is free with admission to the DIA.

The hotties of the shade garden: At 7 p.m. Oct. 5, the Great Lakes Chapter of the Hardy Plant Society will present garden writer and shade garden specialist Gene Bush and his program, “Hellebores and Garden Companions,” at the Congregational Church of Birmingham, 1000 Cranbrook Road., Bloomfield. Tickets are $5 for members and $10 for nonmembers. For information go to

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at