The Wild Garden by William Robinson & Rick Darke



Did you ever wonder from whence came the wild garden?  Until the mid 19th century gardens and gardening had largely been the provence of kings, queens and the landed gentry, so consequently they were quite rigid in design and presented a very formal atmosphere.  Most English and Continental gardens were known for their meticulous displays of newly introduced tropical annuals from South America.  Then in 1870, William Robinson in his book, The Wild Garden, condemned this style as “rote and highly wasteful” while expressing his vision of gardens based upon the flowing arrangements of locally adapted winter-hardy plants.  His designs may have been very controversial for the time, but needless to say, he was very successful and his work has proved the most enduring.

In his recently expanded edition of the Robinson’s original book, Rick Darke gives us a 21st century view of what the wild garden means for us today.  Darke reaches back to the world of William Robinson and re-energizes his work for a modern audience of gardeners that might not already be familiar with his ground breaking work.  His designs and ethos are as viable today as they were nearly 150 years ago.  While many of the plant recommendations made by Robinson are specific to growing in England, there are quite a few plants completely appropriate for our own native wild gardens here in the U.S., simply because they’re native to North America.  

For us here at WbD, this book is a testament to how plants can interact with one another to create a harmonious wild garden and sustainable landscape design.  At the time Robinson wrote The Wild Garden, he was unaware of exactly how alien plants would or would not effect the local ecology of the garden, so we’ll give him a pass on his use of aliens in his plant recommendations.  And, in all honesty, an alien plant here and there isn’t going to damage the ecology of your wild garden as long as you include adequate native plants to support a balanced wildlife population.  So, if you were only going to buy one garden design book, this book could easily be put at the top of the list.

The Wild Garden, where did that even come from...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011