For the latest perspectives and information on how to design and cultivate a landscape that helps to improve rather than degrade the environment, check out The New American Landscape (Timber Press, 2011, $34.95). Edited by Thomas Christopher, a longtime writer on gardening and environmental issues, the book is a compilation of selections from recognized experts in the field of sustainable landscaping. Among the baker's dozen of contributors, Christopher provides information on water-wise gardening and the Sustainable Sites Initiative™; Rick Darke offers guidance on balancing the use of native and exotic plants and designing regionally-adapted plantings; and plant pathologists and gardeners David Deardoff and Kathryn Wadsworth focus on preventing and coping with pests and diseases in an environmentally sound way. Other experts offer advice on meadow gardening, green roofs, welcoming nature into the garden, sustainable soil care, permaculture systems, and how to cope with a rapidly changing climate. There is also an extensive resources and recommended reading section to help you delve more deeply into areas of particular interest. This book is a great introduction to an important and timely area of gardening.
Favorite or New Plant
I garden in sandy soil, so I have used dry soil-tolerant sedums in many spots, both the taller upright varieties like 'Autumn Joy' and the low spreaders like 'John Creech'. But of all the many that I grow, I think the one with the most beautifully striking form is October daphne, Sedum sieboldii. Its scalloped, blue-green leaves, tinged with rose at their edges, arch out in a symmetrical fountain of foliage about 4-6 inches tall and 12-15 inches wide. The graphic quality of the plant is best appreciated when it can be viewed from above. I have two plants, one on either side of a short stone path that leads from my front walk through a narrow garden bed into the yard beyond. No matter how often I pass them by, I never cease to be awed by the perfection of their leaf arrangement as I look down on them. As if this weren't enough, in early fall masses of dusty pink flower clusters adorn the plant, and the foliage takes on a rosier hue as the weather cools. Like most sedums, October daphne does best in full sun and well-drained soil. Hardy in zones 3-9, this is truly a plant with three-season interest.