Book review:

'Gardening on the Edge' edited by Philip McMillan Browse

Published in 2004 by Alison Hodge, Newmill, Cornwall

'Gardening on the Edge' is a collection of contributions from eleven gardeners, most of whom are professionals and all of whom are experts. The introduction is by the editor, Philip McMillan Browse. After describing some of the valuable work done by coastal gardeners during the last two hundred years, he goes on to outline the main problems of gardening by the sea, and how to deal with them. The rest of his chapter is devoted to plant species.

Tom Hudson writes about recent woodland plant arrivals. Chris Page writes about conifers: the photographs include trees in their natural habitat abroad, as well as in Cornwall. Mark Brent's chapter is about palms, and again there are pictures of palms in their native settings as well as in Cornwall. Guy Moore writes about Proteaceae - a fascinating genus with great variation in form. Michael Bell and Les Cathery share a chapter on bamboos and restios. Edward Needham's chapter is mainly about Hedychiums. Charlie Pridham contributes a chapter on climbers. Chris Page writes a chapter about ferns, clubmosses and horsetails. Finally, Rob Senior's chapter is about untried plants: he emphasises the importance - and the fun - of trying new species.

Although aimed at gardeners in Cornwall, much of it will apply to coasts elsewhere. It will probably be of particular interest to the more experienced gardener, but it does contain a lot of information about cultivation and propagation for those who need some guidelines. There is no mistaking the passionate enthusiasm of all the contributors: "plants connect everything," as the book's editor says. The book reminds us of how infinite the possibilities are, and urges us to keep experimenting.

This is a beautiful book, lavishly illustrated with photographs on every page. All are excellent, some are quite outstanding. There are extensive references at the back - lists of suppliers, societies, gardens and collections to visit, and further reading. Importantly, there is a comprehensive index.

"Gardening on the Edge" is published in hardback and costs 25.00. It's worth every penny.

Gardening on the Edge