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April Book Review – Foliage by Nancy Ondra

Once again I’m joining Holley of Roses and Other Gardening Joys in doing a monthly book review on a favourite gardening book from my personal library. I was originally introduced to this particular book by Cathy & Steve of Our Garden Journal when they reviewed this book last year. After reading their glowing report I promptly ordered the book and was not disappointed when it arrived. Foliage, by Nancy Ondra ticks all the boxes when it comes to great gardening books. Written by Nancy Ondra with photography by Rob Cardillo, the cover will entice you to delve deeper into the art of combining plants based on their foliage to create wonderful “pictures” in your garden.

Foliage by Nancy Ondra

As a new gardener it didn’t take me too long to realise that experienced gardeners obviously knew things I did not. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t emulate the stunning garden beds I was seeing and realised I was missing something … and then slowly the penny dropped. Creating a stunning garden is not just about flowers and plants. It’s about how you combine the plants to create something that not only works well in nature but creates a garden scene that is pleasing to the eye.

In fact, what really appealed to me about this book is that I already had a lot of the plants featured in it. Putting them together in the right combinations to create a fabulous garden was what I was about to learn from the book. Flowers come and go – insects or the weather can destroy seasonal blooms seemingly overnight – but predictable foliage in great combinations will set the scene or background for a wonderful landscape that is not dependent on pretty flowers.

You don’t even have to read a single word in the book – just paging through it and seeing the effects created by combining plants based on colour, size, shape and texture will have new gardeners itching to get outside to change things around.

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The book is organized by colour and texture with each chapter explaining the characteristics of plants chosen for the singular appeal of their varying foliage. Colours range from, my favourite, brilliant Chartreuse to blues, silvers and the darker colours like the reds, maroon and blacks. Size of foliage and shapes of leaves (e.g. spiky, bold, medium and fine) with surface textures varying from rough to smooth or satiny, and outlines that are smooth, ruffled, irregular or uniformly even – all this is covered in this wonderful book.

Rob Cardillo’s amazing photography has to be mentioned here. With the range of colours and textures as captured by his camera, it doesn’t take a novice long to realise that season-long interest in the garden depends on the foliage of the plants you choose and how you combine them that creates the base of a stunning garden. Get the foliage plants right and then the plants you choose for flowering in combination will create magic!

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about gardening with foliage and how to create a year round garden that is beautiful.

About Garden Bloggers Book Review meme

Garden Bloggers Book Review is a monthly meme hosted by Roses and Other Gardening Joys (20th day of the month). Whether its vegetable gardening, flower gardening, specialized gardening, design, landscape, or even fiction (that includes a garden, such as ‘The Secret Garden’), Holley invites you to share your take on the garden books you have read.  “Each of our gardens are different, and each of our tastes in garden books will probably be different – but I think if we tell what we like (or not) about each book, we can get a good sense of the books we might want to add to our collection”.  Join Holley on the 20th of the month and share one of your books with us all.

By Christine

Dominated by large trees on a medium sized property, my garden is very shaded. With no “full sun” areas I have to plant shade and partial shade loving plants. I love shrubs and flowers including camellias and azaleas but Roses and Irises are my favourite and getting these to thrive is a challenge …

8 replies on “April Book Review – Foliage by Nancy Ondra”

Great book! I am looking forward to get one too and those photographs are so lovely. Foliage with roses seems interesting too. I can’t wait to see the contents of this book!

Thank you so much for the enthusiastic review, Christine. While I *am* a bit partial to the words, I’m totally with you on the beauty of Rob’s photos. The book certainly wouldn’t be much use without them!

Yep foliage is key, and something I struggle with in really sunny locations. What looks good now (In my spring) looks like h e double hockey sticks by august because the foliage doesn’t fair well. I’m trying something different again this year. Lets see if this works!

I don’t have this book, and it’s definitely going on my list! It’s so true that the foliage is what gives the garden its interest, and I can easily pick out where I’ve used too many roses (if one can use too many roses ;)) because it needs more foliage interest in those areas. I think this book would give me a lot of ideas for contrasting foliage, too. Yes, definitely going on my list! Thanks for joining in.

The photos in this book are stunning and the planting combinations very inspiring. I bet Nancy wants you to read the words and not just page through though, but I know just what you mean. When a book is so visually exciting, it is easy to gather the verbal content through the images alone. The photos tell the story!

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