Colors for the Garden
By P. Allen Smith, Clarkson Potter Publishers, cloth, $32.50.
Little Rock’s most famous green thumb has done it again: He’s put out a gardening book of classic dimensions. Not only is Smith’s premise genuine (not all gardening books’ are), but his information is hugely useful to the plant lover struggling for the right color combinations in the flower bed.
Info is one thing, but the book’s presentation — thanks again to Smith’s photographic collaborator Jane Colclasure — of richly shot landscapes and beds and walks and flower close-ups is deeply beautiful. For people who live in Little Rock, the photos will be of special interest, since they include the gardens of familiar area homes, including, of course, Smith’s own.
Chapters address how to use plants and plant colors in contrast to architecture, natural setting, light, time of year and so forth. An enormous plant directory divided by colors (cool, warm and neutral green, chartreuse, gray, variegated, white, etc.) includes descriptions, how to grow and photographic examples, from cool blue bog sage to yellow poker plant and green pineapple lily.
“Colors for the Garden” is a book to look at over and over again, to learn from, to wallow in. It is as wonderful as Smith’s earlier “Garden Rooms” if not more so. And another plus: It’s illustrated in places by Smith himself, artistry that helps answer why he’s successful as a plantsman. Check out the picture of the “hot colors” flower border in his garden on page 42: He uses it to illustrate how he was inspired by the color of a wheelbarrow to create fresh and outrageously beautiful botany. It will make you sigh with sweet desire.