The self-sustaining garden (a guide to matrix planting), Peter Thompson

Another book borrowed from Edinburgh’s Central Lending Library, shelfmark SB473 (or AH4 in the new system).

An intriguing book. Written from a gardening point of view with reference to plants and their visual and aesthetic structure, it makes the argument that one should minimise inputs, intervene in the landscape minimally, choose plants that complement each other and the microclimate they inhabit. It’s all reminiscent of permaculture, yet there’s not one reference to permaculture or any of the permaculture big names in the acknowledgements. There’s no references to productive plants, either, so it’s not one for my bookshelf.

Encourage the plants you want; discourage the plants you do not want.

Can’t say fairer than that: it’s not saying eradicate plants that don’t fit! He then ranks plants into 9 categories, from the most vigorous through site-appropriate to inappropriate:

  1. out-and-out weeds with vigorous powers of regeneration (bramble, stinging nettle)
  2. plants that are out of place and pose a threat to the planting scheme (dandelion, ground elder, rosebay willowherb, blackthorn, ash)
  3. Weedy but not threateningly invasive; better out than in
  4. Plants with attractive qualities but an inclination to take over
  5. Long-lived tenacious plants, appropriate to the site and largely self-maintaining
  6. Plants appropriate to the situation but unlikely to survive entirely unaided
  7. Plants whose survival depends on intermittently repeated regular attention
  8. Plants dependent on regular attention over indefinite periods for survival
  9. Plants unable to exist without frequently repeated, time-consuming attention

Nice chapter on soil and indicator plants. Lovely illustrations. Has case studies from halfway through the book and the last four chapters are dedicated to particular habitats: variations on grassy themes; garden pools and wetlands; the mixed border; the blessings of shade.


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