Gardening: Books explore plants underwater, on tracks

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News
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For the gardeners on your holiday gift list, a good gardening book is a treasure that keeps on giving. Here are three titles that are at the top of my list:

“Gardens of the High Line: Elevating the Nature of Modern Landscape” (Timber Press) by the garden’s designer, the famed Piet Oudolf and award-winning photographer and horticulturist Rick Darke, is a fabulous photo-driven book that takes the reader on a fascinating journey on the walkways of the 10 gardens through the four season to explore their designs, plant pallets, care and evolution.

The High Line, 11/2 miles of abandon elevated railroad track, was once considered by many to be one of Manhattan’s greatest eyesores. Others, especially those who lived above it and viewed the wild garden seeded in by Mother Nature, believed it was a natural and man-made treasure that should be saved.

Now, a decade later, with an investment of more than $150 million, 90 percent of which was publicly funded, the mile and a half long High Line now ranks among the great city parks of the world.

This is a must read for anyone who yearns to visit or create a landscape large or small that pays homage to both man and the wonders of nature.

“Sowing Beauty:Designing Flowering Meadows from Seed” by James Hitchmough (Timber Press) explains why and how an understanding of naturally occurring plant communities that function ecologically can and should be used to help design, establish and manage naturalistic gardens, urban parks and green spaces.

While Hitchmough’s plantings focus on the sowing of seeds for economic reasons as well as availability, gardeners who depend on plug and container plantings will find a wealth of invaluable information in this work. Hitchmough addresses the ecological parameters including climate, soil types and degree of species competition, and he has organized the environmental and management limitations for various natural meadow-like plant communities and species in easy to reference table.

He covers flowering by impact — dramatic, intermediate and low key, determined by issues including as size, color and bloom-time. The visual mapping of the microclimates in his small private garden will be an ah-ha moment for many.

“Sunken Gardens: A Step-by-Step Guide to Planting Freshwater Aquariums” by Karen A. Randall (Timber Press). While most books on aquariums focus on the fish, this little gem is all about underwater gardening and landscaping. Check it out at I think I may give it try this winter.

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

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