Should you covet a garden which is both edible and ornamental, then this is the book for you. That said, the definition of ornamental is formal in design so you need to be leaning towards a graph paper garden with central axis, quadrants, focal points and geometric layout. You then add the soft furnishings of colour toned or contrasted plants, predominantly edible or medicinal but there is plenty of flexibility in the name of aesthetics. It is a gardening genre which is currently very popular and can be managed on any scale, from tiny to large.
Chapters cover design, construction, planting and both the theory and practice of pleasing planting combinations, plus basic information on growing a whole range of vegetables, herbs, fruit and ornamentals which may qualify. There are hints on soil management and pest control so it is pretty much a complete manual for someone wanting to try this style of gardening. You probably need to be a very tidy, precise sort of person. All the examples in the book are immaculately presented and groomed. If you are a more relaxed gardener, you may want to look at more laissez faire gardening styles.
Although it is a New Zealand publication, the content and style is international, so you won’t get specifics for our conditions. I would have liked to have seen some discussion on the pros and cons of hedging in the edible garden (read: root competition) and building materials get the once over lightly rather than helpful in-depth discussion. I could be a pedant on some of the detail. Rudolf Steiner was many things but I don’t think a horticulturist was one of them – he was a theorist. Not all chemical pesticides are systemic and there are increasing options which are highly specific as opposed to killing indiscriminately. But in the end, these do not detract from what is a useful, credible and highly competent presentation of a gardening style.
Gil Hanly is one of this country’s most experienced garden photographers and it is encouraging to see the publisher willing to commission both an author and a specialist photographer. The book is well organised and well laid out. It has all those things we used to take for granted – index, table of contents, tables of information and charts, well captioned photographs, botanical names – in fact sufficient detail to appeal to gardeners beyond the novice.
The Ornamental Edible Garden by Diana Anthony, photographs by Gil Hanly (David Bateman; ISBN: 978 1 86953 812 5) reviewed by Abbie Jury.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.