If you've ever found yourself with too much plant, not enough time/energy/water/space/(your complaint here) – or if you simply want to avoid the preceding – this book is for you. Most of its 300+ pages contain alternatives, covering a range of hardiness zones, for over 80 "everyday problem plants." Stick around, and I'll tell you how to win a copy.
Keys is a garden designer, garden writer, podcaster for Fine Gardening magazine and all-round knowledgeable plant guy. His blog Garden Smackdown is everything you'd expect from the name. He's fun to read, making his book informative and entertaining.
As an experienced gardener, I found plenty of unexpected plant alternatives. For the invasive Japanese or Hall's honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), for example, he suggests two honeysuckle cousins I'd never heard of: grape honeysuckle L. reticulata 'Kintzley's Ghost' and coral honeysuckle L. sempervirens 'Major Wheeler'. Although, like these, Keys' alternative plants aren't always one-to-one substitutions – these two lack the bad guy's alluring fragrance – they push the envelope to get you looking not only for new plants but for better versions of the ones you have.
|I love you, but I hate you, Rosa 'New Dawn'. Bye bye, brown flowers?|
But these are quibbles, Sybil. The key to Keys is the way he nudges us out of our box, and gets us thinking about, well, about breaking up a long-term relationship with a plant diva who's outgrown her welcome in the Microgarden. Why grow that, when I can grow something better? Yeah, life is too short. My thinking cap is on, Rosa, so best start packing.
A bonus in the book is the excellent and easily digested intro chapter on sustainable plant choice and planting design. Commit it to memory. This is "teach a man to fish" stuff that will hold its value, no matter which new plant alternatives come along.
I also appreciate the inclusion of metric conversions and Canadian mail-order plant sources. Thanks for that, Andrew! We Northoftheborderians salute you.
Want a copy of Why Grow That When You Can Grow This? for your favourite gardener (maybe that's you)? Leave a comment telling us your most-hated garden diva or your inspired plant alternative. We'll put all your names in a garden hat, and draw a winner on Sunday.