“Post-Wild” Book Talk and Giveaway

Diana/ Garden on the Edge20 comments5641 views
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I had the chance to hear a talk about the much-anticipated book Planting in a Post-Wild World by the authors, Thomas Rainer and Claudia West. I know I promised a book review and giveaway today, but having now read the whole book, I’ve decided that it’s so thought-provoking, I want to comment at length, with examples of how their new and controversial ideas about designing with plants answers my decades-long questions on the subject and is already impacting my garden.

For the giveaway, just leave a comment to win a copy of the book (until close of business next Friday). A winner will be chosen at random.

While I’m still digesting the most interesting book I’ve read about plants and landscapes since Second Nature in 1992, here are some images and notes from Thomas and Claudia’s talk.

Thomas grew up in a suburb of Montgomery, Alabama, where he has observed the typical American transformation of natural areas into housing divisions and shopping malls.

Claudia’s story is sure different. She grew up in East Germany and showed us the image above left of a typical strip-mining site there, which has been restored to something more natural since the fall of the Communist regime.

Claudia’s family ran a landscape and nursery business and experienced up-close the European passion for plants native to North America.

So what a shock it was to come to the States and discover that most American landscapes look like this.

Later in the talk, this image illustrated one of the authors’ criticisms of garden design today – too much bare ground and the resultant overuse of mulch. More on that soon.

Planting in a Post-Wild World starts with the world as we find it today – mostly urban and suburban, and getting more so each year. There’s no going back, but there’s wisdom (and a lot less maintenance) in designing according to how plants actually grow together. What a concept!

Posted by

Susan Harris
on October 2, 2015 at 7:24 am, in the category Books.


  1. I was at a friend’s house a couple of weekends ago helping her with the garden she inherited when they bought the house. She thought it was overgrown & out of control because it doesn’t look like the landscaping “norm” one sees everywhere. I had to explain to her how gardens are supposed to look & how much better it is for the land, environment & wildlife when you don’t follow the example set by these so-called “experts” at landscaping companies. I think I managed to convert her, which is wonderful because she has a lot of beautiful natives in her garden! 😉

  2. Composted leaves create a more natural groundcover and suppress weeds as well. Patience is required as you experiment to find the plants that will succeed in an area even if you follow the clues. Mow your leaves and divide the thriving
    natives. I am anxious to read this book.

  3. The reviews make this book sound like a must-read for gardeners in the “post-wild” world. I requested this book from my local public library as soon as I read the first review. Imagine my surprise to see that I was number 10 on the waiting list! Glad to see so many people are interested in a very important topic.

  4. I have a bare end of my brick apartment building where they neglected to plant anything. I am trying to liven it up with an overflowing garden in pots. Looking forward to reading this.

  5. Roy Diblik’s book “The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden” is a more hands on approach to, in Susan’s words, “designing according to how plants actually grow together.” Roy’s knowledge of plants is amazing and has been put to use in projects ranging from the Lurie Gardens in Chicago’s Millenium Park to New York’s Highline. The plant selection in Roy’s book is aimed primarily at the upper Midwest and East although the concepts he introduces are useful anywhere.

  6. Chris,
    You will be hearing a lot more about Claudia West as time goes by. Currently she works at North Creek Wholesale Nursery. She is one of the young bright stars in American horticulture’s future.

  7. I am so very excited to see this paradigm shift in our gardening culture. With the help of this book we can bring biodiversity back into our suburban neighborhoods across America.

  8. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this book, as an Brit expat, I got the confusion about the mulch, but then I felt the difficulties involved in gardening here, it’s a very different set of challenges, taking some getting used to. I can’t wait to see what my take away from this book might be.

  9. Sounds like a fantastic read. Very timely too with our changing urban and suburban landscapes. Think of the ghost malls and areas of cities where houses have been foreclosed and abandoned. I’d be interested in a long-term urban planning scheme to incorporate some of these post-wild planting ideas.

  10. So happy to see people gravitating to a more natural style of “landscaping.” Maybe “naturescaping” is a better term to describe what we Ranters hope to accomplish!

  11. I like letting grow what comes along- as in spontaneous urban meadow- taking out unwanted plants, tossing in seeds of the good stuff to see what will come along.

  12. Not just mulch, but landscape fabric to make absolutely certain nothing can or will grow! But no bare ground for me, in a small garden like mine I take advantage of every square inch!

  13. I am so tired of looking at traditional lawns with grass cut every week. I want to see beds of flowers, sweeps of wildflowers, bees buzzing and butterflies everywhere.

  14. So glad to see this book. My goal is to expand my flower bed into a backyard prairie. I also want to create a butterfly, pollinator haven out front as well as a front yard decorative vegetable garden. Every year I add one or two plants to our landscape. I am excited to read this!

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