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Book Review: Waterwise Gardens for Sustainable Gardens

Book Review: Waterwise Gardens for Sustainable Gardens
Category: Book Reviews

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Synopsis: "font-style: italic;"> Lauren Springer Ogden and Scott Ogden are garden designers and writers who split their time between Texas and Colorado, but their suggestions for low water, xeriscapic landscaping can benefit gardeners far from the American West, Southwest and Deep South. The authors agree with their Dutch contemporary, Piet Oudolf, that a naturalistic landscape design based on local climate -- including water limitations -- is the most sustainable choice.

Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens: 200 Drought-Tolerant Choices for All Climates
by Lauren Springer Ogden and Scott Ogden
Timber Press: 2011
ISBN-13: 978-1-60469-169-6
Paperback: U.S. $24.95, £16.99

Potential Readers

  • Gardeners worldwide who live in areas regularly affected by drought
  • Gardeners who live where there are natural cycles of dry and wet growing seasons, such as areas with Mediterranean or high prairie climates
  • Anyone concerned about making commonsense plant choices to conserve water


Lauren Springer Ogden and Scott Ogden are garden designers and writers who split their time between Texas and Colorado, but their suggestions for low water, xeriscapic landscaping can benefit gardeners far from the American West, Southwest and Deep South.

The authors agree with their Dutch contemporary, Piet Oudolf, that a naturalistic landscape design based on local climate -- including water limitations -- is the most sustainable choice and the easiest for gardeners to maintain. Oudolf designed New York City's Battery Park 9-11 Remembrance Gardens.

In Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens, the Ogdens offer 200 plant choices, ranging from groundcovers to trees, for creating colorful garden designs that are artfully textured and shaped. Many are native to America, but the authors also include international choices, including Middle Eastern plants such as Snow Iris (Iris reticulata), Culinary Sage (Salvia officinalis) and Silver Sage (Salvia argentea).

One of the book's most fascinating trees comes from China. It is Lacebark Pine (Pinus burgeana), which has mottled gray, olive green and rust bark in a puzzle-like pattern that looks like camouflage clothing.

Among the subshrubs -- plants that have both woody and soft, herbaceous perennial growth -- the Ogdens suggest the Southwestern and Northern Mexico native Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii). They include a picture of their own cold-hardy selection Ultra Violet Hybrid Sage (Salvia lycioides x greggii 'Ultra Violet'), which the Ogdens developed from a seedling in their Northern Colorado garden.

Another mint-family plant they suggest is the Southern European subshrub Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa), which is a yellow flowered species that looks like a chapparal plant and is rated for USDA Zones 7 to 10. Flowers by the Sea grows another species, the lavender-flowered Hardy Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis tuberosa), which is cold tolerant to Zone 5 and also grows well in dry gardens.

Excellent color photographs accompany each of the species detailed in Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens. The book is well organized and easy to use for making plant choices appropriate to the reader's USDA cold hardiness zone and other climate needs. For each plant, the Ogdens offer design ideas based on combinations with companion plants and also suggest related alternatives.

As growers, we appreciate that the Ogdens write about what they grow. Overall, we highly recommend this useful book and the authors' expertise in xeriscapic landscaping.

Plants Mentioned in this Article

Salvia lycioides x greggii 'Ultra Violet'

Salvia lycioides x greggii 'Ultra Violet'

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