Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Book Review: Handmade Garden Projects by Lorene Edwards Forkner

There was a short span of nice weather yesterday, and I did get out to do a little bit of cleanup, which entailed mostly pulling a couple of weeds and picking up millions of little Douglas fir branches and cones. But for the most part, I've been staying indoors, reading a lot of garden books. I bought two at the NWFGS: Handmade Garden Projects by Lorene Edwards Forkner and Landscaping for Privacy by Marty Wingate.

So I thought I would let you know how much fun I had reading Lorene's book Handmade Garden Projects. (If you click on the link to the book at Timber Press, you can preview it). The subtitle on this book is Step-by-Step Instructions for Creative Garden Features, Containers, Lighting and More. And that's exactly what it is. As the blurb on the Timber Press website claims, it can help you "transform your garden into a handmade, personality-infused oasis."

I love mosaics!

In the preface, Lorene describes herself: "I'm a handmade gardening gal -- part eco-friendly, non-traditionalist, part crafty creative with more ideas than money. My garden is my canvas, my vision, and my voice. A place where I am free of all rules, except those of Nature herself. It's where I make my unique mark on the world."

Lorene greeted Fling participants with great enthusiasm and joy. Her exuberance was contagious!

Many years after I started gardening, I discovered the fun, creative outlet of making garden art from junk. From items that others have either thrown away, or donated to thrift stores, or that I have been storing in my own basement or garage for a rainy day when it might come in useful. I wrote a blog post about it, which you can read here (it's the most-viewed post on my blog ever). So this was a book with a subject after my own heart.

The book starts out with a quick look at three inspirational gardens, which Lorene revisits throughout the book as she discusses various projects. Of course, the one inspirational garden that she modestly leaves out is her own, in West Seattle. I visited her garden last summer during the Garden Bloggers' Fling, and it was, as she says above, "a unique mark on the world."

Wine bottles used as border edging in Lorene's garden

The inspirational gardens are followed by a very quick discussion of materials and tools, and then she just launches into the projects.  The first section discusses unusual paving choices and patio accents, cool things you can do with turf grass, and unique edging materials. The section ends with a list of interesting ornamental grasses that can be alternatives to lawn.

Old-fashioned, inexpensive rusty wire fencing used as a plant support

The next section covers what she calls "Supporting Acts" -- interesting and unique choices for trellises, obelisks and plant supports. But my favorite section was the one called "Feature Attractions." Here she included instructions for how to make this simple water feature, as well as a fire pit, a gabion-style cocktail table, and a pergola made of plumbing pipe.

This sweet and simple water feature made a big impression on me during our Fling visit. Imagine my delight to find instructions for how to make it in Lorene's book!

Additional sections cover Clever Containers, such as stock tanks and hypertufa, and Finishing Touches, such as birdbaths, chandeliers and other lighting possibilities, and the last section, which covers quirky ways to organize and store garden items. While the photos in this blog post are my own, the book is lavishly illustrated with plenty of beautiful photos.

In Handmade Garden Projects, you will find instructions for how to make an outdoor terrarium like this one.

Anyway, they say winter is for planning the garden, and despite the spring-like weather yesterday, I think it is still winter here. At least three of the books I've read recently pertained to my gravel garden plans.

Others that I've read and liked recently (and will perhaps review in a future blog post):

Grasses by Nancy J. Ondra (from Storey Publishing)
Designing with Succulents by Debra Lee Baldwin (Timber Press)
Free-Range Chicken Gardens by Jessi Bloom (also Timber Press)

I am still working my way through Drought Resistant Planting: Beth Chatto's Gravel Garden (published by Frances Lincoln Ltd). Hmmm...I think it's time to turn off the computer and curl up with that one.