This month I’m joining Holley of Roses and Other Gardening Joys in doing a book review on a favourite gardening book from my personal library. From front cover to back, “Grasses – Versatile Partners for Uncommon Garden Design” by Nancy Ondra with photography by Saxon Holt, is a visual feast. Even if you don’t read a word of this book you will be inspired to start gardening with ornamental grasses – the photography and layout of the book had me hooked from page one.

But it’s not just about the visuals. Here is why I think you should add this book to your library of gardening books …

Grasses by Nancy Ondra with photographs by Saxom Holt

The photography is outstanding. These are not just photographs of random grasses, they are photographs of skillfully designed garden settings where grasses (often in combination with perennials and other plants) were used to create scenes that are not just aesthetically pleasing, but, for want of a better word, WOW! I’ve added a few photographs below to show what I mean about the huge “Wow” factor this book created in my mind, before gardening with grasses was something I’d seriously considered.

The blurb on the cover says “Select beautiful ornamental grasses, combine them with perennial flower and other garden plants and care for them so that they look great year-round. Photos, plans and plant lists for 20 unique garden designs, along with more than 160 colour photographs, provide inspiration for using ornamental grasses in a variety of garden settings“. This books certainly delivers.

The book is divided into four distinct sections; Getting to Know Grasses, Colour Palettes, Seasonal Usage and Selecting for Location. In her usual very well written and conversational style, Nancy takes us through the ABC’s of gardening with grasses from identifying grasses right through to designing with and caring for grasses in your garden. Section one looks at the different types of grasses, flower forms, growth cycles through to choosing the right grass for your site. She further goes on to discuss how to plant, vare for, divide and finally cut back your grasses to ensure the best year-round display.

Easily my favourite section of the book, the second section; Colour Palettes; looks at the various hues and shades of grasses from reds, coppers, bronzes to steel blue and silver. Each colour group is dealt with in-depth and a list of examples with descriptions is provided. Throughout this section the author and photographer provide us with wonderful inspiration in the form of outstanding photographs of colour and plant pairings with a small design detail indicating the plants used (see example in the fourth photograph below).

The third section of the book looks at using grasses in combination with perennials and other plants in any garden setting or gardening style and shows how to use grasses to create the look you want to achieve in your garden.

Finally, section four will assist you in making the correct selection for various sites (the recommendations for dry, wet, hot and shaded sites are very useful). For every garden element, from borders, pathways, and containers to location challenges such as shade, slopes and for privacy, this book offers descriptions to aid in specific grass selections and planning considerations. You will find easy to use reference lists showing you which grasses work well in different situations and under varying conditions such as hot, dry sites, shaded areas and moist and wet sites.

Grasses by Nancy Ondra, photos by Saxon Holt

Grasses by Nancy Ondra, photos by Saxon Holt

Grasses by Nancy Ondra, photos by Saxon Holt

Grasses by Nancy Ondra, photos by Saxon Holt

Grasses by Nancy Ondra, photos by Saxon Holt

Grasses by Nancy Ondra, photos by Saxon Holt

Grasses by Nancy Ondra, photos by Saxon Holt

Grasses by Nancy Ondra, photos by Saxon Holt

Even non-gardeners will appreciate the coffee-table book quality of this wonderful book and will agree that the photography by Saxon Holt is inspiring. Most of the photographs of grasses are taken in combinations with other plant materials so you get the feel of the various grasses in the landscape. I’d rate this as a “must-have” in any gardening library. If you only buy one book this year, get this one!

Now pop overr to Holley’s blog and see what other books have been reviewed this month: January 2012 Gardening Book Reviews

About the 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.