The Collector's Garden

Reviewed by Brenda Korchinski for the Saskatchewan Gardener, Spring 1997

The Collector's Garden: Designing with Extraordinary Plants by Ken Druse, Clarkson Potter/Publishers, New York, 1996

I never met a plant I didn't like.' So begins the preface to this latest book by American author Ken Druse, a garden editor for the magazine House Beautiful. While the plants are the stars of this book, this is not a plant encyclopedia, but the stories of twenty-eight real-life gardeners classified in four categories.

Hunters seek out new and different plants. One man has 75 species of Asarum (wild ginger). Another has probably the largest collection of Epimedium (bishop's hat) in North America, collected over 50 years.

Missionaries are driven to save threatened plants, to conserve, propagate, and disseminate. The people dream of having a specialty nursery, but for them 'horticulture is a lifestyle, not a business.'

Specialists focus on a particular group of plants based on taxonomy (one family, genus, or species0, morphology (certain physical characteristics), or plant habitat (such as woodland or bog).

Aesthetes collect plants just because they find them beautiful. Plants are an artistic medium, and second glances at unique and subtle forms bring satisfaction to these gardeners.

A collector's guide gives notes on propagation, hints on deciphering Latin names, mail-order addresses - most in the USA but two in Canada (one for roses and the other for primroses) - and plant society addresses (twelve of which are Canadian). Even if you are not yet a collector, anyone can enjoy the wonderful photographs taken by the author and be inspired to try one or two new plants. If you now have a 'garage sale' selection of plants, this book may inspire you to adopt the more focused and committed approach of a collector. And if you are already a true 'collector', you will find much to identify with and enjoy in The Collector's Garden.