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January 12, 2011


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oh yea, lawn mowing...the ultimate topiary. Who has time for that?!

valerie Easton

Hey Joel,
I was quoting you when I called you a non-gardener - never a judgement I'd make myself. I do believe you described yourself that way to me - something about hardly finding time to mow the lawn?


Well now wait a minute, I don't think I took Cass out of context when she is saying things like "My family often jokes about the "Tortured Bush Society" landscaping we see in some neighborhoods. They look awful." I think she is being pretty clear about her position and I happen to disagree with her and I think there is a lot of merit in the incredible amount of work and creativity that people put into their topiary.
I'm also not so keen on being labeled a 'non-gardener', a lazy gardener or maybe a creative gardener might be more accurate. I love plants as much as most gardeners, I just also happen to have an admiration for self expression and an understanding for people that choose to use their yards as a means of self expression.
-Behi Bonsai

valerie Easton

Hi Ryan,
I think Cass is worried about longer term maintenance and plant health, because she sees so many problem plants.

And you're right, maybe this is a silly controversy, but I love people thinking and talking about pruning, because it'll cause them to look closer at gardens and discover their own aesthetic....


Most topiary I see?? My vote? Plant torture!! :) Not to be confused with good bonsai...btw!!

Ryan Miller

This is all kind of ridiculous. I think BeHi Bonsai took her comments out of context. I'm a big fan of Cass Turnbull's pruning books and outreach, and she should be focusing MORE on mal pruning that is NOT done for artistic effect. I'm sure there are many horrible topiary examples out there and the pictures BeHi Bonsai were pretty neat, but we are only seeing the good ones on his blog.

My bigger point is about whether or not topiary is good or okay for a plant. Some of those pruning jobs may be unhealthy for the plant, but so what! We gardeners love our plants, but we also learn pretty quickly to be merciless when they don't fit the vision we want for our yard. If something doesn't fit and you can't find a home for it, it goes in the compost heap.

Many of these forms may not be ideal for the plant's health or fit it's natural shape, but if the gardener knows that and wants to shape it that way anyways, that's fine with me. They may be locking themselves into a pruning nightmare, but if they can pull it off, good for them.

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New Book: Petal & Twig

  • Petal & Twig Made The New York Times!
    From Anne Raver's review: "Valerie Easton, a Seattle-based garden writer, discusses the art of growing and arranging cut flowers in “Petal and Twig: Seasonal Bouquets With Blossoms, Branches and Grasses From Your Garden” (Sasquatch Books; $16.95). Written as an informal diary, with photographs of arrangements from her own garden, and tips on cutting and keeping flowers fresh, the book inspires ideas not only on what to grow but on how to combine (or not) those beauties inside. See review here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/29/garden/new-books-on-growing-and-arranging-flowers.html?scp=1&sq=petal%20&%20twig%20anne%20raver&st=cse
  • The first reviews on the new book are in! From Publisher's Weekly:
  • "Open your eyes and keep it simple: those are two lessons Easton passes on from her own 40 years in the garden. When selecting and arranging flowers for bouquets, you needn’t spend a bundle buying a bundle of imported flowers.....The result will be unique, local, imaginative, and inexpensive. Color photos throughout illustrate and inspire."

In the News

  • Montreal Blogger Reviews "A Pattern Garden"
    I was so pleased to find that "A Pattern Garden" is still being reviewed...check out Allan Becker's generous review on his Garden Guru blog.. I felt like Allan really understood what I was working towards in that book....he writes...."There is a delightful abstract quality to this publication. In it, the author takes good garden design to a higher, more spiritual level. Instead of discussing the aesthetic and scientific elements of design, as so many traditional garden design books do, she focuses on the role played in garden design by archetypal ideas - a.k.a. patterns - that reference the longings of human beings. These pleasure and comfort-rooted ideas are those that inspire designers to create gardens that are satisfying beyond their beauty." see more at http://allanbecker-gardenguru.squarespace.com/journal/valerie-easton
  • Planting art
    Check out this interview with Val in the Chicago Tribune on using art in the garden...

The New Low Maintenance Garden

  • Reviews Are In....
    "Over the years, countless books have espoused a low-maintenance approach to gardening. None have been as engaging, practical, or inspiring as this latest of Easton's contributions to the gardener's bookshelf,"
    - Pacific Horticulture magazine, Jan/Feb/Mar 2010

    "A handy guide to a garden you can raise without a corresponding increase in your blood pressure..handsome and informative...."
    - Metropolitan Home, Dec. 2009

    "This book is an invaluable addition to the garden library – destined to be a classic for many years to come."
    - Garden Design Online

Photo Credits

  • The banner and portrait photos were taken by Jacqueline Koch; all other photos by Val Easton unless otherwise credited.


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