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Natural Landscaping is an intelligent and quietly compelling guide for naturalizing the garden. Country Living Gardener editor Sally Roth relies on decades of organic gardening experience, personal anecdotes, and a belief in working in concert with Mother Nature to restore native ecosystems. In the tradition of gardening manuals, she offers best-of lists for everything from grasses for prairie gardens to flowers for a night garden to plants to soften a pool's edge, always stressing the overarching importance of flora-fauna harmony. She also includes helpful tips and sidebars on bird-nest materials, unique ground covers, building dry streambeds, and making homemade sap for butterflies. There's a solid chapter on wall and path design and welcome field-guide information on water wildlife, birds, and butterflies. Roth's tone is warm throughout, and she further personalizes the book by including sidebars about other gardeners and their gardens. Grassland, woodland, and freshwater-area ecosystems are covered, although information on coastal or arid areas is absent. For readers in the Southwest, Desert Landscaping would be a better choice.
The real shine of Natural Landscaping is in the details on creating a natural habitat that is self-contained and self-perpetuating. For instance, one can plant a butterfly bush to attract butterflies, but what perennial will butterflies lay their eggs in for next year? Instead of fighting a never-ending battle of trapping and killing moles, let these insect-eating creatures tunnel their homes and aerate your soil. Your first impulse may be to tidily clear away fallen wood, but why not position it ornamentally and nourish the soil at the same time? The book is full of this kind of sensible wisdom. It's clear Roth has taken her lessons from Mother Nature seriously. --Karen Karleski