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I was happily surprised to find that Homer-based author, Brenda C. Adam’s book, “Cool Plants for Cold Climates” depicts plants that are suited for Southeast. Brenda said that she developed an inventory and then contacted respected gardeners in various Alaskan locales to hone that list.
Book review: Cool Plants for Cold Climates 090617 AE 1 For the Capital City Weekly I was happily surprised to find that Homer-based author, Brenda C. Adam’s book, “Cool Plants for Cold Climates” depicts plants that are suited for Southeast. Brenda said that she developed an inventory and then contacted respected gardeners in various Alaskan locales to hone that list.

Annuals with veggies. Photo by Brenda C. Adams.


Mixed garden with cache. Photo by Brenda C. Adams.


Brenda C. Adams signing books. Courtesy image.


Long blooming astrantia. Photo by Brenda C. Adams.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Story last updated at 9/5/2017 - 4:19 pm

Book review: Cool Plants for Cold Climates

When I get asked to help friends with their space, I’m rarely given the simple task of weeding or cutting back plants. Instead, people have bought a house from Master Gardeners and they have no idea about the dozens of plants and how to care for them, while others want instant landscaping. Others are tortured by gardening books and magazines that feature plants not suited to our environment. Yes, it’s easy to rule out desert scapes, but it’s those photos from Portland and Seattle with the myriad of flowers and textures that often creates an aesthetic pining that’s hard to subdue.

I was happily surprised to find that Homer-based author, Brenda C. Adam’s book, “Cool Plants for Cold Climates” depicts plants that are suited for Southeast. Brenda said that she developed an inventory and then contacted respected gardeners in various Alaskan locales to hone that list.

The first half of Adams’ book is from a garden designer’s perspective. As she evaluates plants to determine how they will impact the garden, it’s helpful to see a tapestry of plants that thrive in our conditions displayed together. This gives a sense of how things go together by seeing those plants mixed and matched in a real setting.

She covers the basics of how she goes about looking at plants from foliage, flowers, bark and stems, seedpods, berries and other fruit, architectural shape and form, motion, and fragrance before she delves into the practicality of the plants: What is the bloom time? How well do they thrive? What’s their ease of maintenance?

My favorite section is when she talks about whether you love the plant or you don’t. Often, people look at the value of a plant in their yard while making their decision of whether to keep it. Adams argues that it’s not the cost or the perception of anextrinsic value, but the pleasure the plant gives you which should determine whether it stays or goes.

The second half of the book is a collection of plants. I’ve been working on a photo list for my own benefit, but Adams has created an index with many of the plants I’ve worked hard to catalog. If you just can’t remember the name of the plant in your yard, most likely it will be listed.

Her descriptions of the plants are helpful as you audition various plants for your garden with information about the plant’s preferences such as sun, soil, and growing zone. It also gives an indication of bloom time and height.

Adams also throws edibles into the mix such as putting a Toscana kale with ornamentals. She advises that greens or Mediterranean herbs work well, but that other vegetables such as brassicas don’t work because of their high nutrient needs compared to the perennials.

If you are exploring the yard you inherited or if you find yourself looking back over your lawn hoping for inspiration, Barbara Adams book is a fine place to start your adventure. As she recommends, decide what is the purpose for that space. Do you want a place for kids to play, to socialize, or as a place to retreat and rejuvenate? And, if you find yourself leaning for some more garden design advice, her first book, “There’s a Moose in My Garden,” might also be something to check out.

Corinne Conlon lives, gardens, forages, and writes in Juneau.