Gardening with Conifers is actually several books in one:
- The casual reader might approach it as a coffee table book; the photography, by Adrian Bloom and his son Richard, is lush and richly detailed.. Even non-gardeners will be impressed by the colors and textures of cones and needles, especially in the extreme close-ups. They’re beautiful!
- Gardeners will benefit from the ideas on garden design. One section details Bloom’s design of the Mauergarten in Jedddeloh, Germany; and, of course, his 45 years’ experience with his legendary 6-acre Foggy Bottom garden in Norfolk, England, is well-documented in both words and pictures. Sage advice on design is found throughout the book.
- Anyone, even the gardener who has little initial interest in conifers, is likely to be inspired by the possibilities the gymnosperms present. Bloom notes that: “Few gardeners, even professional ones, are aware of how wide a range of conifers is available in most gardening-oriented countries, and, therefore, they are perhaps not alive to all their possibilities as garden plants.”
- The “Directory of some of the best conifers”, describing more than 600, is a valuable resource for any gardener, although the author admits that many cultivars are of interest only to specialist collectors. The various aspects of moving trees (sometimes with a chainsaw!) are well-covered, acknowledging the reality that many conifers are not ideally placed at the time of planting.
There are historical tidbits as well. In the Middle Ages, conifer forests were seen as dark, magical and threatening. By the 18th century, interest in gardening and landscaping had grown and was fed by the importation into Europe of new species, especially from North America. North Americans were more interested in clearing trees than in planting them, Bloom notes. That attitude has changed considerably, and he includes many U.S. gardens in the book.
There are lessons in taxonomy: “Some forms are unusual and often striking, and it is worth knowing the Latin names that describe such appearances: filifera and filiformis mean threadlike; coralliformis also means threadlike, but twisted like coral; lycopodiodes means like Licopodium mosses, with extended unbranched shoots; torulosa means twisted, a term that can apply to stems or, as in Pinus strobus ‘Torulosa’, to needles.
While Gardening with Conifers will certainly serve many as a reference source, reading it is a pleasure. Just browsing through it is a delight.
Even if you have seen the first edition, printed in 2002, this updated and expanded version should be on every conifer lover’s shelf.
Buy it here and support the ACS: Gardening with Conifers, Second Edition (2017), by Adrian Bloom; Firefly Books Ltd.; 224 pages; $29.95