Book review: Natural Companions.

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Although we’ve been favoured with some bright sunny days and warm temperatures here in Calgary over the past couple of weeks, there’s still snow on the ground and it will be considerable time yet before the garden beds will completely thaw. Nearly everyone has been beset with cabin fever this year (especially those of us who didn’t head to the tropics for a vacation). I’ve been trying to combat it by poring through seed catalogues (which is getting old because I’ve told myself I must not order anything else!) and dipping into the mountain of gardening books I’ve dragged home from work. One of my co-workers – who suffers from the same garden itch as I do – recommended Ken Druse’s new book, Natural Companions, and after a quick glance inside, it was easy to see why she was so enamoured with it.

At this point, I have to confess that I didn’t read this book cover-to-cover. (I know, I know, I’m violating some book review rule, am I not?). Honestly, I couldn’t stop gazing at/drooling over the photographs. Druse’s exquisite shots of harmoniously grouped plants in garden settings are one thing. It’s the botanical photos that grab me. They’re absolutely astonishing – pure works of art. Druse collected all of the plant specimens (foliage, buds, flowers, seed pods, stems, etc.) and grouped them together according to a theme – “Signs of Spring” (daffodils, Daphne odorata, Camellia japonica, yaupon holly) or “Sunny Dispositions (Ligularia japonica, coreopsis, yarrow, rudbeckia), even “Peas on Earth” (ornamental peas, including lupines). You can imagine the floral combinations that make up “In the Pink,” or the gorgeous autumn frame containing bark, magnolia fruits, ornamental black corn and lablab beans compiling “It Ain’t Over ‘Til it’s Over.” “On Pines and Needles” is self-explanatory, as is “One Good Fern Deserves Another.” (Clever, no?). Artist and photographer Ellen Hoverkamp arranged all of the specimens on a flatbed scanner to create the incredible collages found on every page. Trust me – it’s easy to forget to read the text. You’re too busy ooh-ing and ahh-ing. This is a botanical art-lovers dream, a picture book for anyone who can’t get enough of plants.

I’m not certain it cured my cabin fever, though. In fact, it may have made it worse! 😉

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To see Ellen Hoverkamp’s work and a selection of prints from Natural Companions, click here. She’s got a few images up for sale in her store as well.  To say I’m tempted to buy one is an understatement.

(I’m participating in February’s Garden Book Reviews!  Head on over to Roses and Other Gardening Joys to check out all of the fantastic bloggers and their reviews).