Book Review: Beautifully Sustainable

coverFor many gardeners, the ideal yard is relaxing, beautiful, relatively low maintenance and good for the Earth. Douglas Owens-Pike has been creating this kind of sustainable landscape for 25 years through his Minneapolis-based company, EnergyScapes. His designs have been featured in many magazines, including Northern Gardener.

In this just-published guidebook, Beautifully Sustainable: Freeing Yourself to Enjoy Your Landscape, Owens-Pike offers a strategy for homeowners to imagine, create and maintain landscapes they love but do not have to slave over. Unlike many garden design books, filled with images of landscapes that may be well beyond the typical budget, Owens-Pike has created a guide that is “designed to engage you for short bursts of study, followed by action steps that clearly guide your progress through a complex process that will help you build the environment you desire.” So, while the book does include some images of Owens-Pike’s designs, the focus is on what you want for your yard.

Owens-Pike addresses many common obstacles in garden design — light, drainage, soil — as well as design elements that create comfort and beauty, such as paths, color and structure. Owens-Pike prefers native plants and offers a variety of ways to incorporate them into different landscapes. In the maintenance section, he covers the basics: lawn care, weeds, pruning and tools among others. I was especially interested in a section where he talks about native plants that are good alternatives to some invasive/weed species. If your garden is choked with creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea), plant Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pennsylvanica). If damesrocket (Hesperis matronalis) is an issue (as it is for me), plants rough blazingstar (Liatris aspera) instead. Why fight the soil and sun you have, when you can plant these beautiful natives.

At 85 pages, this is a short guidebook, ideal for those who want to work through design questions themselves without feeling overwhelmed. The book will be available at the MSHS booth at both the Minnesota Home and Patio Show this weekend at the RiverCentre in St. Paul and at the Minneapolis Home and Garden Show, Feb. 26 to March 2. Owens-Pike will do a book signing for MSHS at 1 p.m., Sunday, March 2, at the Minneapolis show.