Sunday, June 24, 2018

Growing Heirloom Flowers: Bring the Vintage Beauty of Heritage Blooms to Your Modern Garden

Growing Heirloom Flowers: Bring the Vintage Beauty of Heritage Blooms to Your Modern Garden is a new how-to-and-why gardening handbook from Chris McLaughlin out 8th May 2018 by Quarto - Cool Springs Press.  It's gloriously full color, 163 pages and available in ebook and hardcover formats. 

I'm a huge believer in biodiversity and open pollinated crops, seed sharing and organic gardening.  I grew up on a smallholding full of animals and plants which were eminently suited to their environments because they'd grown and flourished in the climate where they were planted/raised for a long long time.  There was never much thought given to the transportability or marketability of different vegetables or flowers because they only had to travel a few hundred meters to the kitchen.  The tomatoes, by gosh, exploded with tomato flavor and the clove pinks and stocks made you giddy with the smell. That is something this author really gets. In fact, there's been a really scary trend toward loss of biodiversity and variety in our crops and seeds worldwide.  The trend toward taking back our heirloom heritage is important and this book is very timely in that respect.

The book starts with an introduction and explanation; what heirlooms are and why we should be interested in growing them.  The author continues on to describe the different uses of plants and  starts off with flowers for the cutting garden.  Most of the plants she describes for different uses have an individual entry with pictures, color photos and uses.  Happily, she includes the proper Latin names in each listing, so gardeners can find their way to the correct plants.

Interspersed rather whimsically in each chapter are short tutorial with crafts and other fun tidbits (making a flower crown, freezing flower ice cubes for drinks, drinks, crafts and foods, etc).   Fragrant flowers get their own chapter and I really agree with all her choices.  There are a number of old favorites often overlooked (especially in modern garden centres), and which deserve a place in the cottage garden.  The chapter on cottage garden classics also includes a fair number of old 'forgotten' favorites which will reward the modern gardener with gorgeous blooms and provide wonderful food and pollen for bees and other wildlife. 

The book includes a resource list (slanted toward gardeners in the USA) and handy list of gardens to visit for inspiration.  There's a very short author bio and a useful (abridged) index.  All in all a worthwhile addition to the heirloom gardening library.

The author's style is very breezy and chatty and exuberant.  It did get a bit wearisome that she referred to every one of the plants in the book as 'she' and 'the girls'.  A bit of anthropomorphism is fine, but it got to be a bit much for me particularly.  On the other hand, for the vast majority of gardeners who will use this book as a pick-and-mix resource and not read it from cover to cover, that won't be an issue.  It's a charming and useful book.

4 stars
Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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