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Reference: Wildlife Gardening Books

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Natural Gardening in Small Spaces

By Noel Kingsbury
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Ref image This is a book that approaches wildlife gardening very much from the perspective of the horticulturalist and garden designer.
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 Citation  
Kingsbury, N. 2003. Natural Gardening in Small Spaces. London, Frances Lincoln Limited. ISBN 0 7112 2015 8.
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 Format  
Hardback. 24x28.0cm. 176 pages.
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 Review  
I don't think NoŽl Kingsbury mentions 'wildlife gardening' once throughout this book, although he certainly makes liberal reference to garden wildlife. Open quotesThe author prefers to use the term 'natural gardening' to describe his subject matter and I think there is a useful implied distinction between this and 'wildlife gardening'Close quotesThe author prefers to use the term 'natural gardening' to describe his subject matter and I think there is a useful implied distinction between this and 'wildlife gardening'. Natural gardening can be thought of as a school of garden design concerned with reproducing a natural aesthetic in the garden. The benefits of the natural garden to wildlife are very real but, in a sense, secondary to the main design objective. This contrasts to wildlife gardening as characterised by Chris Baines in his book from the same publisher, How to Make a Wildlife Garden, where gardening to benefit wildlife is the primary objective.

I don't want to imply that any one of these approaches is any more 'valid' that the other (even if that had any real meaning which I doubt). My overwhelming impression when reading this book was how well it and Chris Baines' book complemented each other. For me, each viewpoint and approach illuminated the other.

There is an exceptionally interesting introductory section called Designing for Nature followed by the main section, Planting Vignettes of Nature. Open quotesIn the Planting Vignettes of Nature section, the author describes how natural gardens can be modelled on different natural situationsClose quotesIn the Planting Vignettes of Nature section, the author describes how natural gardens can be modelled on different natural situations. Chapters in this section include Woodland and shade, The Woodland Edge, Grassland: Meadow and Prairie, Wetlands, Dry and Exposed Habitats and Open borders. There are also sections covering gardening without a conventional garden (e.g. in containers and on 'green roofs') and the practicalities of natural gardening.

Open quotesThe final section is a plant directory which covers an enormous range of plantsClose quotesThe final section is a plant directory which covers an enormous range of plants, both native and non-native, which can be used in a natural garden. The plants are described in tables which are organised according to the type of natural habitats covered earlier. Each table includes information on height and spread, habit, flower colour, season and soil etc. This reference section alone will mean that I am likely to consult this book again and again.

The book is clearly intended for audiences on both sides of the Atlantic which can sometimes mean that you have to stop mid-passage and think about which side of the pond to place yourself, but overall, it works. A relatively minor but, for me, slightly irritating feature was that photographs accompanying text Open quotesFor anyone, like me, who comes to wildlife gardening from a background as a naturalist, there is a huge amount to be learned from this bookClose quotes describing real wildlife gardening features like mammal hibernation shelters and bat boxes, showed something else completely (in both these cases, insect shelters).

Natural Gardening in Small Spaces is clearly the product of a highly skilled and competent plantsman and garden designer. For anyone, like me, who comes to wildlife gardening from a background as a naturalist, there is a huge amount to be learned from this book. But anyone interested in wildlife gardening will find it useful, whatever their background.

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