If the gardener is the garden, does a garden author's book also reflect the author's garden? In this case, true--the book "Fearless Gardening" is a garden of ideas, crammed full of fresh, contemporary takes on creating and constantly re-creating a garden as a canvas for personal expression and inventiveness. Garden as individual, joyful vision.
The book contains multiple examples of gardens, including the author's accomplished own, that present individual visions in apt descriptions and hundreds of beautiful photographs, though it is not a mere picture book. The text provides plenty of useful information.
Photo from the book:
The reader is encouraged to flex and expand her own creativity. The book offers many valuable tips to do so based on Bohl's own hands-on experience. For example, if intriguing plants are not cold hardy, trying growing a few as annuals. If you don't like a plant, even a healthy one, you can ease the pain of removing it by giving it away instead of throwing it out. Additional perspectives and lessons are provided by examples of other successful gardens.
Photo from the book: plant as an annual, and enjoy!
While one or two of the example gardens are individual indeed (a mannequin with wings!), they are skillfully done and not eccentric to the point of questionable taste. The emphasis is always on plants as a garden's starring features, not a collection of garden junk.
Photo from the book: it's about the plants
This book is useful for both experienced as well as beginning gardeners. The beginner is encouraged to experiment and given confidence to do so via advice from the author's extensive knowledge. The experienced gardener will recognize and enjoy shared experiences in the author's descriptions of gardening problems faced and successfully solved, though not always on first attempt.
While many of the gardens discussed are located in the Pacific Northwest, the author knows and carefully points out that the reader's climate may be very different, and to adjust plant choices and techniques accordingly.
Essentially the "Fearless" of the title's meaning is: be unafraid of having fun and being creative gardening. Can't argue with that! I enjoyed this book very much.
Taking inspiration from the book, my own attempt at fearlessness this week was, at this moment, neither joyful nor creative. In truth, my long, rocky road to individual vision is paved with considerable doubt.
I've long been entranced by the majestic glory of Bismarckia noblis, a palm native to Madagascar. It is one of the boldest, most commanding plants I have ever seen.
(The remaining photos in this post are mine and not from the book.)
A small young Bismarckia in the Huntington's Palm garden:
A slightly larger, still juvenile example at the Los Angeles Arboretum:
I've had a Bismarckia in a pot for years, and was at a loss (also for years) on where to plant it. It was a generous gift from the owners of this glorious garden I visited back in 2015.
It had become an increasingly painful experience to watch the Bismarckia languish, trapped in a pot, so finally...I fearfully made the "Fearless" leap...
I placed the palm where it has adequate space, (I hope, hope) but wowza Bismarckias get big. No doubt the joy will burst forth eventually, seeing the palm finally thrive and grow stately, but sometimes even in the garden, joy is delayed, and not entirely free of disquiet.
"Fearless" means lack of fear, not something this timid blogger possesses much of. Perhaps the term "courageous"? Courage is doing something despite fear, not in its absence. Me? Nooooh, likely not.
What it was, actually: the palm was silently screaming to get out of its pot. I listened, and heard it. If we are not fearless, our plants will be.
Note: I received a copy of the book as a review copy from the publisher before I could buy one, and I have enjoyed the author's blog for many years.