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Book Review: Planting in a Post-Wild World by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West

Photo of Book among ferns - Planting in a Post Wild WorldPlanting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes, by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West

Rating: 🌳🌳🌳🌳🌳/5 Trees

Genres: Non-Fiction, Garden Design, Horticulture

Summary: If you’re looking for landscape design inspiration and guidance that goes beyond the stereotypical look of suburban gardens, this is the book for you.


Rainer and West approach garden design with the belief that humans have an innate emotional connection to natural and wild spaces. These wild spaces may be in sharp decline across the globe, but Rainer and West acknowledge that decline and use it as a starting point for their design principles. The purpose of this book is to act as “a guide for designing resilient” and “stylized versions of naturally occurring plant communities” (20), allowing us to maintain our emotional connection with nature within urban and suburban settings. Rainer and West provide tools gardeners and designers will need to select plants for their site, layer the plants, and create a compelling composition.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of this guide is the descriptions of the four natural archetypes that should be emulated in these garden designs. Rainer and West recommend that the design process begin with an assessment of the site to determine with which archetype it most aligns: a grassland, woodland/shrubland, forest, or edge. Each archetype is broken down and its primary elements are explained in a way that even beginner gardeners can understand their composition and benefits. Rainer and West show designers and gardeners how they can mimic these archetypes while still maintaining the neat, and sometimes even heavily stylized, look of traditional gardens.

Keep in mind that when recommending plants for these garden designs, Rainer and West allow for the limited use of exotic plants. Exotic plants can have a role in these designed plant communities, but don’t worry, they strongly discourage the use of invasive plants. When it comes to native species, Rainer and West recognize that because native plants are “naturally adapted to their specific sites”, they “can and perhaps should be the starting point for developing high-quality designed communities. In many ways, starting with a native plant community as a reference point can simplify the design process” (41).

This book moves beyond the maxim of “right plant, right place” and approaches garden design more holistically by looking at the relationships of plants to place, plants to people, and plants to other plants. We highly recommend this book for its accessible and unique approach to garden design which gives both professional designers and at-home gardeners the tools to bring natural plant communities to urban and suburban settings.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 25th, 2021 at 10:04 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.