Needed guidance to plan our spring planting, as we just moved to Atlantic Canada. Deer, sea breezes, soil acidity, salty and humid air....lots to contend with. We also want to attract bees and butterflies, and discourage deer and field mice, so needed more info to help us choose wisely. Also good information regarding growth cycles and tolerances of various plants.
The setting for this gardening book is one of the most beautiful locations in North America, situated on the northeastern tip of the continent, northeast of the US State of Maine. It is known as the Maritime Provinces or Atlantic Canada. Here is where family members of the 32nd president of the USA, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, spent their summers; it is the birthplace of Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables, and of actor Donald Sutherland. Wise celebrities who keep vacation homes in the area include Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, Paul Simon and Billy Joel. This picturesque swath of the continent includes the eastern tip of Quebec as well as the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick..
Postcards of Atlantic Canada's scenery depict blue skies, sandy or craggy beaches, green rolling meadows and high tides. Because it protrudes into the North Atlantic, it is warmed by the Gulf Stream that sweeps up from Mexico before making a right turn towards Europe. While this meteorological phenomenon keeps some spots in Atlantic Canada slightly balmier than one might imagine, it also brings the tail end of searing hurricane winds in late summer, usually accompanied by strong rains. Winters can be a cornucopia of every gardener's nightmare: - Snow storms are not uncommon in April, and winter temperatures range from thaw to deep freeze. Add to these climate conditions, hungry deer, slugs, and a soil that is rocky, acidic, and heavy with waterlogged clay and a challenging environment for gardening is created.
That challenge has been taken up by the author, who lives and gardens in Nova Scotia. This is where she test-grew hundreds of plants and catalogued a selection of those that thrive favorably under harsh growing conditions. Ms. DeLong recommends about 40 trees and shrubs and over 70 perennials. Most of the plants are those that I too have grown successfully in a cold climate. It is validating to see that another gardener also appreciates their contribution.
Up until now, these plants have been the key to our successes and now Ms. DeLong is sharing that "secret" with the public. Discovering what works in her growing zone must have been a labor of love because the recommended plants are beautiful in their own right and even more impressive when combined with each other. These are the handsome work horse plants that make gardens and gardeners look good. Readers are given essential technical plant specs such as growing requirements, hardiness, height, and bloom period. A detailed hardiness map for Atlantic Canada is also supplied, as are appendices for deer resistant plants, plants for pollinators, salt and drought-tolerant plants and plants for moist or wet soil.
The first impression I got, when I unwrapped this publication is that it celebrates the physical experience of touching and reading real books. The glossy cover is illustrated with a powerful, eye catching, close up photo of a monarch butterfly feeding on an echinacea flower, the interior graphic design is talented and impressive, not only in execution but in the choice of colors used to differentiate distinct sections of the text. The pages have a sensuous, shiny feel that makes one's fingers linger.
Ms. DeLong writes in a warm and intimate style so that what may have begun as a manual, reads like a letter to a dear friend. This valuable and enjoyable reference book ought to be on the shelves of every public library in the north east where growing conditions are challenging. It is also an impressive gift.
Those who garden in Atlantic Canada or other maritime climes are often presented with unique challenges. Our mercurial weather offers sometimes long, cold winters, followed by wet springs which can lead into hot and humid summers, depending on your location. Wind is a constant, especially along our coastline, and even salt spray can wreak havoc on certain plants.
Jodi DeLong's Plants for Atlantic Gardens offers East Coast gardeners a compendium of over one hundred sturdy trees, shrubs, and perennials that may thrive in our fickle Atlantic conditions.
Illustrated with Jodi's own beautiful photos, the size and soft cover format of the book, together with the quality of the paper and binding, make it as much a pleasure to hold as it is to read. In an easy, engaging style of writing, Jodi shares her own experiences'both success and failures'with readers and goes so far as to include the natural histories of many of the plants she presents.
For someone like myself who is passionate and enthusiastic about gardening, but perhaps lacks the experience and knowledge to make appropriate plant selections, this book is a must-have reference. Each plant description includes both the botanical and common name of the plant, its bloom period, growing requirements, growth-size range, best planting locations, soil requirements, known problems, and invaluable notes about things such as pests, colour, toxicity, etc., all presented in an attractive, easy to read format.
From Hellebores to Hostas'Lilacs to Lilies, I believe Plants for Atlantic Gardens' greatest appeal'and what and sets it apart from any other how-to gardening book'is that the information is from a personal perspective, specific to our Atlantic region. Jodi's notes throughout the text give the book the feel of a series of beautifully presented seminars. It offers not only information, but inspiration, for those who garden by the sea.
My copy of Jodi DeLong's new book, "Plants for Atlantic Gardens" arrived the other day and, since then, I've spent every spare moment perusing its colourful and informative pages.
You have to understand - I am not a gardener.
At least, I never was. I failed to comprehend the obsession that others expressed about soil, plant types, fertilizers, pollination, drainage and so on.
My claim to fame has been total ignorance of all things horticultural.
Over the years I've been fortunate to have lived in homes that came equipped with gardens created by other, more knowledgeable, souls. My only challenge has been to not ruin what had already been lovingly created by someone else.
My patient, but equally horticulturally-challenged, hubby and I moved to a new home last year set on a small, and sadly barren, lot on the outskirts of Sussex, NB. Not having a clue about where to begin, nor the financial resources to hire someone else to do it for me, I reached out to a friend who would know where I should start. Jodi knows all about these things and generously shares that knowledge through the articles she writes and now in her latest book crafted specifically for people attempting to create beauty in the harsh Atlantic Canadian environment.
Her vivid descriptions of the physical properties and individual personalities of over one hundred "handsome and hard-working shrubs, trees and perennials", together with the beautiful photographs that accompany each, have given me hope that even I can create an oasis of colour and interest that can be enjoyed year 'round.
As I write this commentary, we have just come through weeks of winter storms, arctic-like temperatures, snowfalls that would be the envy of the Alps and now freezing rain and slush. Spring seems eons away, although it's really only a few weeks - at least technically. I will keep reading and learning.
I will be ready, when the earth welcomes us, to choose, plant and nurture species that, until I read Jodi's book, I'd never heard of or knew pathetically little about. Encouraged by her down-to-earth voice in the book, I'm building the confidence to at least TRY. Even Jodi, consummate gardener and author, has had failures to which she freely admits. So, there is hope for a neophyte like me.
I can learn, with Jodi's book at hand to guide me, what are the best potential locations for various species; the soil amendments that may be needed; whether the prevailing wind direction is a good thing or not; and most importantly - not to become discouraged if some of my chosen plants fail to meet my expectations. As she says, "plants can't read" and sometimes just don't live up to their billings.
Soon I will be shopping for plants I now know are truly suitable for Atlantic gardens. Thanks, Jodi, for opening a new vista for me and showing me how to take those first steps.