Shrubs and Hedges and Spirit of Place Book Reviews

  • Post published:08/19/2020
  • Post comments:0 Comments
Shrubs and Hedges book
Shrubs and Hedges by Eva Monheim

The days have been hot and muggy. It’s time to stay inside after 10 a.m. and turn to new books. It’s time to think about what fall chores will need to be done.

The first book is useful to me now that our shrubs have matured. When we designed our Greenfield garden we wanted to make it easy to care for.We knew that meant choosing easy care plants – like shrubs. A trio of hydrangeas promising generous size was our first purchase.

Shrubs change over time and I am still learning about working with my shrubs. In her new book, Shrubs & Hedges: Discover, Grow and Care for the World’s Most Popular Plants, (Cool Springs Press $30.) Eva Monheim has provided a lot of practical information. The truth about shrubs, as with all plants, is that they do not reach a perfect beautiful form and then never change.

The book includes a short history of shrubs and their benefits, then moves on to how shrubs are named. We are talking taxonomy here – and it is valuable information even though I confess I am endlessly looking up the information more than once before I am confident.

Chapter 4 provides Profiles of Dependable Classics and Rising Stars. Classics include roses, slender deutzia, and the large family of hydrangeas. Chapter 5 is about Designing with Shrubs, with suggestions for arranging different shrubs together.

Chapter 6 gave me Pruning for Structure, Shape, Form and Profit. It is especially valuable to confused and nervous pruners like me, and to all gardeners. I have been timid about pruning, but Monheim has given me confidence to selectively thin my shrubs, to cut out terminal branches in order to encourage side branching, and to cut back older branches on shrubs for rejuvenation. None of my shrubs are older than five years, but this year I have needed to practice all of these methods. I appreciate the drawings and photographs that give me the confidence to cut – and things are looking more attractive. I also appreciated the section on when to prune, fall, winter or spring.

Chapter 8 explains the difference between hedges and hedgerows, giving a fascinating explanation about the history of the differences.

I was happy that Chapter 9, Attracting Pollinators and Other Desirable Wildlife provided information about the interconnectivity of all things. These creatures are vital to giving us a healthy environment.

Shrubs&Hedges is a practical and useful book with information about the plants, and clear directions about working with your shrubs and hedges. The photographs clearly show plants and their structures. Photos of important tools and how they should be used are also included.

Eva Monheim is currently teaching at Longwood Gardens for the Professional Horticulture Program, and is a faculty member at the Barnes Arboretum of St. Joseph’s University. Her website is

Spirit of Place: Making of a New England Garden by Bill Noble
Spirit of Place: The Making of a New England Garden by Bill Noble

The second book allows for dreaming. In his book, Spirit of Place: The making of a New England garden, (Timber Press $35.) Bill Noble describes looking for a new home and finding an “early Greek Revival cape set close to the road” in Norwich, Vermont. This property had been a farm ever since 1767, but by the 1950s it was no longer being farmed. Noble found the property in 1991.

As he started cleaning the collapsed barns Noble began uncovering the history of the farm. That was the beginning of restoring plantings, and designing new gardens.

He describes his various gardens, each one named, with details and plant names. There is the flower garden, the front border, the barn garden, the rock garden, the long border, and the fruit and vegetable garden. I was glad to see his interest in wildlife, providing shelter and food for birds in all seasons, and all other creatures that wander in the fields and forests of farmland.

On his property and over the years, Noble has created many gardens on the property. He began slowly, but made an amazing list of his guiding principles when he began. He says they changed over the years but I found the principles thought- provoking and useful to all of us. What are the goals of any garden? Consider the views. The garden should be maintained according to ecological principles. Vegetable gardens should be organic. Garden management should be manageable. Native plants should be considered and used. Noble also wanted his garden to have an emotional impact.

I think we all look for many of these ideas and plants in our gardens even though we might never put them in words. It is helpful that Noble can be so clear about what he wants. Many of his plans clarify our own plans.

Spirit of Place is a beautiful book. The many excellent photos almost bring us right into his gardens.

Noble’s stunning home gardens are included in the Smithsonian Institution’s Archive of American Gardens. He is also the former director of preservation for the Garden Conservancy. He has worked with individual garden owners as well as public and private organizations. His beautiful website is

An apology. Last week I mis-identified the brilliant array of flowers on Annette Kilminster’s deck. Annette was the colorful arranger of flowers and I thank her again for inviting me to visit.###

Between the Rows  August 8, 2020

Leave a Reply