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Handbook for underused garden plants

Native Ferns, Moss and GrassesFrom Emerald Carpet to Amber Wave: Serene and Sensuous Plants for the GardenBy William CullinaHoughton Mifflin Company272 pp. $40

This strikingly beautiful compendium makes a good case for why these overlooked plants could and should be a part of more gardens.

Horticulturist William Cullina's witty and personal writing style is extremely readable. Native Ferns, Moss and Grasses is the final book in Cullina's native plant trilogy, which also includes Wildflowers and Native Trees, Shrubs and Vines.

Cullina begins with the basics. He defines native plants, clearly explains the concept of plant hardiness zones, including a map projected for 2075, and discusses the importance of ecological cultivation. But the encyclopedic chapters on ferns, mosses, and grasses, sedges, and rushes form the heart of the book.

I was particularly taken with the mosses, which can be glued on or blended and spread into place. Feather moss, Hypnum imponens, once used to stuff pillows, resembles miniature fern fronds; one of the best species for moss lawns and decorating low logs and rocks, it is drought tolerant. Broom moss, Dicranum scoparum, a spreading moss common in this area, readily turns rocks, stumps, logs and lawns to a vivid emerald color.

For the more intrepid gardener, a useful chapter discusses propagating plants from seeds, spores, and cuttings, as well as germination and potting. A propagation table, summaries of plant uses and planting conditions, sources, references, a glossary and an index round out the book.

Native Ferns, Moss and Grasses provides the know-how to garden with these underused plants.

If you are looking for an out-of-the-ordinary gardening experience, this book offers inspiration and solid advice.

William Cullina's Web page can be found at http://williamcullina.com.

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