Update 12-20-12: Congratulations to Bobbie Schmidt, the lucky winner of Why Grow That When You Can Grow This!
A little known fact about me: I paid for most of my college education working in beauty salons as a manicurist. In the process I learned many life skills, including how to give an excellent hand massage and the fine art of gossiping discretely. I also learned that at one point or another, most of us want what we can’t have. Curly-haired beauties yearned for stick-straight tresses, while those blessed with long, sleek manes pointed wistfully at photos of short, sassy dos.
It turns out gardeners suffer from the same kind of plant envy, often pining for the plants of their childhood or tropical specimens remembered from a favorite vacation—zones and cultural conditions be damned. Fortunately for us, in his new book, Why Grow That When You Can Grow This?: 255 Extraordinary Alternatives to Everyday Problem Plants, Andrew Keys shows us that we can enjoy the garden of our dreams, while still acknowledging the reality of our growing conditions.
Andrew’s prose is lively and chatty throughout. Reading this book is like swapping plant recommendations with your best gardening friend and I frequently found myself smiling at the plant descriptions. Live oak is characterized as the “most venerable old professor at the garden school…and like that old professor, it can be a little messy and it’s not a fan of the cold." Which is true.
While I am familiar with many of the alternatives recommended, there are plenty of new ones I found intriguing. Instead of my usual choice of barberry (Berberis Atropurpurea) the next time I need a splash of burgundy for a drought tolerant garden, I’ll turn to ‘Bronze Butterfly’ shrub (Gastrolobium praemorsum), or as Andrew calls them, “big bonbons of chocolaty red-purple.”
Forget boring old barberry
In my next landscape plan I'm trying out 'Bronze Butterfly' shrub:
Or maybe even ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius):
Whether you suffer from plant envy, and are looking for regionally appropriate alternatives to grow instead, or you just need a little help climbing out of a plant rut, Andrew’s got you covered.
And now for the good stuff – Timberpress is providing a free copy to one lucky reader! For a chance to win, simply leave a comment by midnight on Wednesday, December 19th. The winner will be notified by email the following day. For a second chance to win, stop by Gossip in the Garden – Rebecca Sweet is giving a copy away as well.
But wait, there’s more! Besides being a talented writer, Andrew is a noted podcaster for Fine Gardening magazine. In what I can only assume was a fit of madness, he agreed to let Rebecca and me interview him with no restrictions on subject matter. Check out the link below to hear him talk about his new book, his life lifelong passion for plants - and his misguided belief that in the event of a throwdown, cactus would kick some succulent ass.