Book review: Gardening from a Hammock

Some people live to garden. But, for many of us, gardening is only part of the pleasure of living. We want a nice garden, but we don’t want to be a slave to it. We want to spend some time simply enjoying the fruits of our labour… and with a lot less labour.

If that’s you, then you are the one this book was written for. Gardening from a Hammock by Ellen Novack and Dan Cooper is about the plants you could choose for your easy-care garden – plants for sun or shade as suggested by seventeen* experienced gardeners, including Master Gardeners, noted plantsmen and nursery owners. (*Eighteen, technically; two are mum and son team, Marjorie and Jeff Mason of Mason House Gardens.)

The plants for each gardener reflects their own garden style, from sustainable to bold to drought-tolerant to aristocratic. An excellent botanical reference guide in the back includes details of all the plants mentioned.

I’ll confess that I’ve killed some of the suggestions, notably, and repeatedly, Japanese forest grass (Hakonechloa), which is one of the top-ten plants named here by multiple contributors. I say this to stress that the success or failure of any plant in a garden depends on numerous factors. Choosing easy-care plants isn’t always foolproof, and even experienced gardeners can kill cast-iron plants.

Besides a small number of mislabelled photos, I wish the designers had better used typography to clearly divide the sun and shade sections of each narrative – although it’s consistently organized, once you get the hang of it. And, frankly, despite two prominent subheads about low maintenance and easy care on the cover, maybe it’s me but the title sounded more memoir-ish than guide-y. These are minor quibbles, though. This book would be useful in your garden planning toolkit.

As the time to start wrapping gifts approaches, why not get the jump on it with a personalized copy for your favourite gardener. Meet Ellen and Dan this Sunday, September 23, 2012 at Word on the Street. They’ll be at Booth 151 from 11 am to 5 pm, along with No Guff Gardening author Steve Biggs.  Then, from from 5 to 6 pm, find them among the garden authors signing books all day at the Toronto Botanical Garden booth. Others include Marjorie Harris, Sonia Day, Liz Primeau, Lorraine Johnson and Gayla Trail. Happy reading, and happy gardening.


  1. I rarely just sit back an enjoy the garden. I see a weed and must tend to it or I am not happy. I wish I could slow down a bit and enjoy the garden rather then work in it. I need to find a spot for that hammock that is in my storage closet…. Hummmm….

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